Surface electromyography for testing motor dysfunction in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To investigate the use of a set of dynamical features, extracted from surface electromyography, to study upper motor neuron (UMN) degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Methods: We acquired surface EMG signals from the upper limb muscles of 13 ALS patients and 20 control subjects and classified them according to a novel set of muscle activity features, describing the temporal and frequency dynamic behavior of the signals, as well as measures of its complexity. Using a battery of classification approaches, we searched for the most discriminating combination of those features, as well as a suitable strategy to identify ALS. Results: We observed significant differences between ALS patients and controls, in particular when considering features highlighting differences between forearm and hand recordings, for which classification accuracies of up to 94% were achieved. The most robust discriminations were achieved using features based on detrended fluctuation analysis and peak frequency, and classifiers such as decision trees, random forest and Adaboost. Conclusion: The current work shows that it is possible to achieve good identification of UMN changes in ALS by taking into consideration the dynamical behavior of surface electromyographic (sEMG) data.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurophysiologie Clinique
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Classification
  • Diagnostic
  • Machine learning
  • Signal dynamics
  • Surface electromyography
  • Upper motor neuron degeneration


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