Muscle Fatigue Post-stroke Elicited From Kilohertz-Frequency Subthreshold Nerve Stimulation

Yang Zheng, Henry Shin, Xiaogang Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Rapid muscle fatigue limits clinical applications of functional electrical stimulation (FES) for individuals with motor impairments. This study aimed to characterize the sustainability of muscle force elicited with a novel transcutaneous nerve stimulation technique. Method: A hemiplegic chronic stroke survivor was recruited in this case study. Clustered subthreshold pulses of 60-μs with kilohertz (12.5 kHz) carrier frequency (high-frequency mode, HF) were delivered transcutaneously to the proximal segment of the median/ulnar nerve bundles to evaluate the finger flexor muscle fatigue on both sides of the stroke survivor. Conventional nerve stimulation technique with 600-μs pulses at 30 Hz (low-frequency mode, LF) served as the control condition. Fatigue was evoked by intermittently delivering 3-s stimulation trains with 1-s resting. For fair comparison, initial contraction forces (approximately 30% of the maximal voluntary contraction) were matched between the HF and LF modes. Muscle fatigue was evaluated through elicited finger flexion forces (amplitude and fluctuation) and muscle activation patterns quantified by high-density electromyography (EMG). Result: Compared with those from the LF stimuli, the elicited forces declined more slowly, and the force plateau was higher under the HF stimulation for both the affected and contralateral sides, resulting in a more sustainable force output at higher levels. Meanwhile, the force fluctuation under the HF stimulation increased more slowly, and, thus, was smaller after successive stimulation trains compared with the LF stimuli, indicating a less synchronized activation of muscle fibers. The efficiency of the muscle activation, measured as the force-EMG ratio, was also higher in the HF stimulation mode. Conclusion: Our results indicated that the HF nerve stimulation technique can reduce muscle fatigue in stroke survivors by maintaining a higher efficiency of muscle activations compared with the LF stimulation. The technique can help improve the performance of neurorehabilitation methods based on electrical stimulation, and facilitate the utility of FES in clinical populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1061
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - Dec 4 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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