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The effect of skin, muscle, fat, and bone tissue on simulated surface electromyographic (EMG) signals was examined using a finite-element model. The amplitude and frequency content of the surface potential were observed to increase when the outer layer of a homogeneous muscle model was replaced with highly resistive skin or fat tissue. The rate at which the surface potential decreased as the fiber was moved deeper within the muscle also increased. Similarly, the rate at which the surface potential decayed around the surface of the model, for a constant fiber depth, increased. When layers of subcutaneous fat of increasing thickness were then added to the model, EMG amplitude, frequency content, and the rate of decay of the surface EMG signal around the limb decreased, due to the increased distance between the electrodes and the active fiber. The influence of bone on the surface potential was observed to vary considerably, depending on its location. When located close to the surface of the volume conductor, the surface EMG signal between the bone and the source and directly over the bone increased, accompanied by a slight decrease on the side of the bone distal to the active fiber. The results emphasize the importance of distinguishing between the effects of material properties and the distance between source and electrode when considering the influence of subcutaneous tissue, and suggest possible distortions in the surface EMG signal in regions where a bone is located close to the skin surface.
Date of Publication: May 2002