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Historical Perspective of EMG

Tiffany Zachry
KIN 747 Biomechanics Seminar
Spring 2004
Why Frogs Hate Scientists
Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680)
Dutch anatomist and biologist
Only one known portrait of himand
its a fake.
Copied from Rembrandts The
Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp
Picture Source:
Swammerdam (contd)
Discovered that stroking
the innervating nerve of
the frogs m.
gastrocnemius generated a
contraction (1).
Also strong evidence that
he conducted the first
electrical stimulation
experiments, 134 years
before Luigi Galvani (2).
Francesco Redi (1626-1698)
First to recognize connection
between muscles and
generation of electricity (1).
1666documented that
electric ray fish used a
highly-specialized muscle
Most famous for establishing
that maggots do not
spontaneously generate from
rotting meat.
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Alessandro Volta (1745-1827)
Developed a device which
produced electricity, which
could be used to stimulate
muscles. (3)
Invented the first electric
The modern term volt
comes from his name.
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Luigi Galvani
Credited as the father of
neurophysiology for his
similar work with frogs
Showed that electrical
stimulation of muscular
tissue produces
contraction and force. (1)
Because of limited
instrumentation, his work
was not fully accepted
until almost 40 years later.
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The following picture is graphic in
nature and may not be suitable for all
audiences. Children, pregnant women,
the elderly, and those with weak
sphincters are strongly cautioned.
Modern Galvanized Frog
Picture Source:
Carlo Matteucci

First practical
galvanometer developed
in early 1800s (3)
Galvanometer An
instrument used to detect,
measure, and determine
the direction of small
electric currents by means
of mechanical effects
produced by a current-
carrying coil in a magnetic
In 1838, Matteucci used
one to show that
bioelectricity is
connected with
muscular contraction (1)
1842 demonstrated the
existence of the action
potential accompanying
a frogs muscle
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Emil Du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896)
1848 first to detect electrical
activity in voluntary muscle
contractions of man (3)
Had subjects place fingers in saline
Removed skin to reduce transfer
resistance (1)
Detected signal through electrodes
connected to galvanometer when
subjects contracted muscles
Guillaume Duchenne (1806-1875)
1850 applied electric
stimulation to intact skeletal
muscles (4).
Interested in medical
electricity for therapeutic
purposes. (5)
Systematically mapped out
functions of nearly every
facial muscle (3)
Worked often with the old
man who had little feeling in
his face. (6)
Picture Source:
The following picture is graphic in
nature and may not be suitable for all
audiences. Children, pregnant women,
the elderly, and those with weak
sphincters are strongly cautioned.
Picture Source:
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Duchenne also discovered
some rather surprising
The muscles around the eyes are
only active during a genuine smile.
An insincere smile involves only the
muscles of the mouth. (6)
So, everyone can tell when youre
faking it.
Other Notables
Knowledge of EMG developed as fast as
technology could keep up.
The term electromyography comes from Etienne
Marey, who modified Lippmans capillary
electrometer (1876) as one of his many
contributions to kinesiology. (1)
It was used, much like his sphygmograph, to
provide a graphic representation of a beating heart.
Other Notables
Forbes et al. were
probably the first to
use floating electrodes
on a moving body.
They used them to
record EMG signals in
elephants. (1)
Forbes also used a
CRT to amplify action
potentials. (1)
Willem Einthoven
made a string
galvanometer in 1903
and won the Nobel
Prize for it. (1)
It uses a thin
conductor wire placed
between two magnets.
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Modern Floating Electrode
Other Notables
Adrian and Bronk
developed the concentric
needle electrode in 1929.
Used it primarily for
researching motor control
and muscle schemes. (1)
Enabled detection in
individual and small
groups of muscle fibers.
Hypodermic needle
with insulated wire in
its barrel (4).
Picture Source:
Herbert Jasper (1906-1999)

Constructed the first electromyograph
from 1942-44 at McGill University
(Montreal Neurological Institute) (1).
Also created a unipolar needle electrode.
Used his instruments to perform
groundbreaking work with epilepsy and
neurology and is a member of the
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame
John Basmajian
1962 Basmajian compiles all of the known
information about EMG. (4)
Also created fine-wire electrodes (7) that
were more comfortable than needles and
could be used longer. (8)
The book Muscles Alive becomes an
invaluable tool in the field and is updated
through five editions, the last Carlo De Luca.
Founded International Society of
Electrophysiological Kinesiology, ISEK, in
1965. (9)
ISEK worked to create standards for EMG
usage and reporting.
Picture Source:
Carlo J. De Luca
Probably the most influential
person in recent EMG history.
Wrote the oft-cited paper The
Use of Surface
Electromyography in
Biomechanics. (10)
Cautioned against failing to
understand EMGs limitations.
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Electromyography is a seductive
muse because it provides easy
access to physiological processes
that cause the muscle to generate
force, produce movement, and
accomplish the countless
functions that allow us to interact
with the world around usTo its
detriment, electromyography is
too easy to use and consequently
too easy to abuse. (10)
Our EMG System
In the Biomechanics Lab we are currently using a
MyoSystem 2000 by Noraxon.
Our internationally known patent-protected
technology incorporates a signal processing
technique that overcomes interference known as
artifact in a signal. The result is a scientifically
reliable surface assessment of dynamic muscle
activity. This patent-protected signal processing
technology is contained in all of our surface
electromyography (SEMG) instrumentation and is
recognized as the standard of excellence
worldwide. (Source:
MyoSystem 2000
Older version of the new 1400A.
Tethered system using bipolar electrodes.
New version offers USB 2.0 compatibility, thinner
lightweight cables, and selectable bandwidths for
surface or fine-wire electrode use.
Blue Sensor Electrodes
Highly conductive wet
Superior adhesion
Comfortable foam
Unique offset concept
High quality Ag/AgCl
Oblong shape for easy
placement (juvenile)
Other Manufacturers of EMG
NeuroDyne Medical Corporation
The Prometheus Group
Electronic Engineering Corporation
Motion Lab Systems, Inc. makes equipment and
software, including a package that is compatible
with Vicon Clinical Manager and enables Vicon to
display raw EMG data. (
There are numerous other manufacturers as well.
Current Studies Using EMG
The effect of internal versus external focus of
attention on EMG activity during basketball free-
Effects of focus of attention on take-off and
landing strategies
Both studies are using EMG to help assess the
effects of attention focus on muscle activity.
Also, David Grohs thesis will compare EMG
activity in throwing versus Thera-Band use.

1. Medved, V. (2001). Measurement of human locomotion. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
2. Clarys, J. P. (1994). Electrology and localized electrization revisited. Journal of Electromyography and
Kinesiology, 4, 5-14.
3. Cram, J. R., and Durie, M. D. (In press). The history of muscle dysfunction and SEMG. Journal of
Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Retrieved February 28, 2004 from
4. Basmajian, J. V. (1978). Muscles alive: Their functions revealed by electromyography. 4
Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
5. Licht, S. (1971). History of electrodiagnosis. In S. Licht (ed.), Electrodiagnosis and electromyography.
New Haven, CT: Elizabeth Licht, Publisher.
6. Katz, E. Retrieved March 9, 2004 from
7. Basmajian, J. V., and Stecko, G. (1962). A new bipolar electrode for electromyography: Journal of
Applied Physiology. 17, 849.
8. Whittle, M. W. (1999). Gait analysis: An introduction. 2
ed. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
9. The history of ISEK. Retrieved March 9, 2004 from
10. De Luca, C. J. (1997). The use of surface electromyography in biomechanics. Journal of Applied
Biomechanics, 13, 135-163.
Other Resources
Aminoff, M. J. (1978). Electromyography in clinical practice. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Dainty, D. A., and Norman, R. W. (eds.) (1987). Standardizing biomechanical testing in sport. Champaign, IL: Human
Kinetics Publishers.
Enoka, R. M. (1988). Neuromechanical basis of kinesiology. (2
ed.) Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Kleissen, R. F. M., Buurke, J. H., Harlaar, J., and Zilvold, G. (1998). Electromyography in the biomechanical analysis of
human movement and its clinical application. Gait and Posture, 8, 143-158.
Latash, M. L. (1993). Control of human movement. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Latash, M. L., and Zatsiorsky, V. M. (eds.) (2001). Classics in movement science. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Loeb, G. E., and Gans, C. (1986). Electromyography for Experimentalists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.