Muscle network topology analysis for the classification of chronic neck pain based on EMG biomarkers extracted during walking

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Neuromuscular impairments are frequently observed in patients with chronic neck pain (CNP). This study uniquely investigates whether changes in neck muscle synergies detected during gait are sensitive enough to differentiate between people with and without CNP. Surface electromyography (EMG) was recorded from the sternocleidomastoid, splenius capitis, and upper trapezius muscles bilaterally from 20 asymptomatic individuals and 20 people with CNP as they performed rectilinear and curvilinear gait. Intermuscular coherence was computed to generate the functional inter-muscle connectivity network, the topology of which is quantified based on a set of graph measures. Besides the functional network, spectrotemporal analysis of each EMG was used to form the feature set. With the use of Neighbourhood Component Analysis (NCA), we identified the most significant features and muscles for the classification/differentiation task conducted using K-Nearest Neighbourhood (K-NN), Support Vector Machine (SVM), and Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) algorithms. The NCA algorithm selected features from muscle network topology as one of the most relevant feature sets, which further emphasize the presence of major differences in muscle network topology between people with and without CNP. Curvilinear gait achieved the best classification performance through NCA-SVM based on only 16 features (accuracy: 85.00%, specificity: 81.81%, and sensitivity: 88.88%). Intermuscular muscle networks can be considered as a new sensitive tool for the classification of people with CNP. These findings further our understanding of how fundamental muscle networks are altered in people with CNP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252657
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2021

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© 2021 Jimenez-Grande et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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