Muscle activation pattern elicited through transcutaneous stimulation near the cervical spinal cord

Yang Zheng, Xiaogang Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation can help activate muscles of individuals with neurological disorders. However, conventional electrical stimulation targets distal branches of motor axons, and activates muscles non-physiologically. For example, stimulation at the muscle belly activates muscles in a highly synchronized manner. Accordingly, we investigated whether the muscle activation pattern was more asynchronized through transcutaneous stimulation near the cervical spinal cord (tsCSC). Approach. A stimulation array was placed on the posterior side near the cervical spinal cord, to target the arm and hand muscles. Stimulation trains of 10 Hz and 30 Hz were delivered. Electromyogram signals were recorded to quantify the muscle activation patterns. Arm and finger joint kinematics were also recorded using a motion capture system. Main results. After an initial synchronized activation prior to 35 ms after stimulation onset, we observed substantial asynchronized muscle activities with a long latency (>35 ms). The asynchronized activation is also more evident in distal muscles compared with the proximal muscles. In addition, the decreased synchronization level of muscle activities correlated with a reduced fluctuation of joint movement. The highly asynchronized muscle activities indicated an activation of the sensory axons and/or dorsal roots as well as a possible involvement of some spinal-supraspinal circuitry. Significance. Our tsCSC approach can improve the muscle activation pattern during electrical stimulation with a possible involvement of the spinal and supraspinal pathways, which can facilitate applications on rehabilitation/assistance of individuals with impaired motor function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number016064
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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