Age related changes in surface myoelectric signals
Merletti R, Lo Conte LR, Cisari C, Actis MV
NeuroMuscular Research Center, Boston University
The initial values and the time course of muscle fiber conduction velocity and of surface myoelectric signal spectral variables were studied during voluntary or electrically elicited contractions of the tibialis anterior muscle of 15 healthy elderly human subjects. Age ranged from 65 to 84 years. Isometric voluntary contractions were performed at 20% MVC (Maximal Voluntary Contraction) and 80% MVC for 20 s. Tetanic electrical stimulation was then applied to the main muscle motor point for 20 s with surface electrodes. Two stimulation rates (20 Hz and 40 Hz) and two stimulation amplitudes were used to induce different degrees of fatigue. One stimulation amplitude was supramaximal, the second was adjusted to induce a response (M-wave) about 30% of the maximal. Results were compared with those reported in previous work on healthy adults (age range 18 to 43 years). The main findings of this work are: (a) when voluntary contraction level is increased from 20% MVC to 80% MVC conduction velocity and spectral variables increase; this increase is significantly smaller in elderly subjects, (b) during sustained contractions at 80% MVC the decrease of conduction velocity and spectral variables is significantly smaller in elderly subjects, (c) during contractions induced by supramaximal stimulation at 40 Hz the decrease of conduction velocity and spectral variables is not significantly different in the two age groups. It is concluded that points a and b reflect the age related decrease of number and size of fast twitch fibers indicated by histological data. Point c is discussed and possible explanations are suggested.
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