Objective. Restoration of motor function in paralyzed limbs using functional electrical stimulation (FES) is undermined by rapid fatigue associated with artificial stimulation. Typically, single electrodes are used to activate muscles with FES. However, due to the highly distributed branching of muscle nerves, a single electrode may not be able to activate the entire array of motor axons supplying a muscle. Therefore, stimulating muscle with multiple electrodes might enable access to a larger volume of muscle and thereby reduce fatigue. Approach. Accordingly, we compared the endurance times that ankle dorsiflexion could be sustained at 20% maximum voluntary force using feedback controlled stimulation (25 Hz) of human tibialis anterior (TA) using one or four percutaneous intramuscular electrodes. In addition, we measured endurance times in response to direct stimulation of the nerve supplying TA and during voluntary contraction. In all sessions involving electrical stimulation, an anesthetic nerve block proximal to the site of stimulation was used to isolate the effects of stimulation and alleviate discomfort. Main results. Endurance time associated with stimuli delivered by a single intramuscular electrode (84 ± 19 s) was significantly smaller than that elicited by four intramuscular electrodes (232 ± 123 s). Moreover, endurance time in response to nerve stimulation (787 ± 201 s) was not significantly different that that produced during voluntary contraction (896 ± 272 s). Significance. Therefore, excessive fatigue associated with FES is probably due to the inability of conventional FES systems to enlist the full complement of motor axons innervating muscle and can be mitigated using multiple electrodes or nerve-based electrodes.
- functional electrical stimulation
- skeletal muscle
- spinal cord injury
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience