The identification of the motor unit (MU) innervation zone (IZ) using surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals detected on the skin with a linear array or a matrix of electrodes has been recently proposed in the literature. However, an analysis of the reliability of this procedure and, therefore, of the suitability of the sEMG signals for this purpose has not been reported. The purpose of this work is to describe the intra and inter-rater reliability and the suitability of surface EMG in locating the innervation zone of the upper trapezius muscle. Two operators were trained on electrode matrix positioning and sEMG signal analysis. Ten healthy subjects, instructed to perform a series of isometric contractions of the upper trapezius muscle participated in the study. The two operators collected sEMG signals and then independently estimated the IZ location through visual analysis. Results showed an almost perfect agreement for intra-rater and inter-rater reliability. The constancy of IZ location could be affected by the factors reflecting the population of active MUs and their IZs, including: the contraction intensity, the acquisition period analyzed, the contraction repetition. In almost all cases the IZ location shift due to these factors did not exceed 4. mm. Results generalization to other muscles should be made with caution. © 2011 Elsevier Lt
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