Information decomposition of multichannel EMG to map functional interactions in the distributed motor system


The central nervous system needs to coordinate multiple muscles during postural control. Functional coordination is established through the neural circuitry that interconnects different muscles. Here we used multivariate information decomposition of multichannel EMG acquired from 14 healthy participants during postural tasks to investigate the neural interactions between muscles. A set of information measures were estimated from an instantaneous linear regression model and a time-lagged VAR model fitted to the EMG envelopes of 36 muscles. We used network analysis to quantify the structure of functional interactions between muscles and compared them across experimental conditions. Conditional mutual information and transfer entropy revealed sparse networks dominated by local connections between muscles. We observed significant changes in muscle networks across postural tasks localized to the muscles involved in performing those tasks. Information decomposition revealed distinct patterns in task-related changes: unimanual and bimanual pointing were associated with reduced transfer to the pectoralis major muscles, but an increase in total information compared to no pointing, while postural instability resulted in increased information, information transfer and information storage in the abductor longus muscles compared to normal stability. These findings show robust patterns of directed interactions between muscles that are task-dependent and can be assessed from surface EMG recorded during static postural tasks. We discuss directed muscle networks in terms of the neural circuitry involved in generating muscle activity and suggest that task-related effects may reflect gain modulations of spinal reflex pathways

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