Changes in diaphragm motor unit EMG during fatigue

G. C. Sieck, M. Fournier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Fatigue-related changes in the waveform and root-mean-square (rms) values of evoked motor unit electromyographic (EMG) responses were studied in the right sternocostal region of the cat diaphragm. Motor units were isolated by microdissection and stimulation of C5 ventral root filaments and then classified as fast-twitch fatigable (FF), fast-twitch fatigue intermediate (FInt), fast-twitch fatigue resistant (FR), or slow-twitch (S) based on standard physiological criteria. The evoked EMG responses of S and FR units showed very little change during the fatigue test. The evoked EMG waveform and rms values of FF and FInt units displayed variable changes during the fatigue test. When changes were observed, they typically included a prolongation of the EMG waveform, a decrease in peak amplitude, and a decrease in rms value. The changes in EMG amplitude and rms values were not correlated. In more fatigable units, the decrease in force during the fatigue test generally exceeded the decrease in EMG rms values. Changes in the evoked force and EMG responses of multiple units innervated by C5 or C6 ventral roots were also examined during the fatigue test. The decrease in diaphragm force during the fatigue test closely matched the force decline predicted by the proportionate contribution of different motor unit types. However, the observed reduction in diaphragm EMG rms values during the fatigue test exceeded that predicted based on the aggregate contribution of different motor unit types. It was concluded that changes in EMG do not reflect the extent of diaphragm fatigue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1917-1926
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1990


  • contractile failure
  • force
  • muscle
  • neuromuscular transmission failure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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