Clinical Relevance of State-of-the-Art Analysis of Surface Electromyography in Cerebral Palsy

Germana Cappellini, Francesca Sylos-Labini, Carla Assenza, Laura Libernini, Daniela Morelli, Francesco Lacquaniti, Yury Ivanenko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Surface electromyography (sEMG) can be used to assess the integrity of the neuromuscular system and its impairment in neurological disorders. Here we will consider several issues related to the current clinical applications, difficulties and limited usage of sEMG for the assessment and rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy. The uniqueness of this methodology is that it can determine hyperactivity or inactivity of selected muscles, which cannot be assessed by other methods. In addition, it can assist for intervention or muscle/tendon surgery acts, and it can evaluate integrated functioning of the nervous system based on multi-muscle sEMG recordings and assess motor pool activation. The latter aspect is especially important for understanding impairments of the mechanisms of neural controllers rather than malfunction of individual muscles. Although sEMG study is an important tool in both clinical research and neurorehabilitation, the results of a survey on the clinical relevance of sEMG in a typical department of pediatric rehabilitation highlighted its limited clinical usage. We believe that this is due to limited knowledge of the sEMG and its neuromuscular underpinnings by many physiotherapists, as a result of lack of emphasis on this important methodology in the courses taught in physical therapy schools. The lack of reference databases or benchmarking software for sEMG analysis may also contribute to the limited clinical usage. Despite the existence of educational and technical barriers to a widespread use of, sEMG does provide important tools for planning and assessment of rehabilitation treatments for children with cerebral palsy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number583296
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 11 2020


  • abnormal development
  • cerebral palsy
  • clinical application
  • muscle pathophysiology
  • rehabilitation
  • spinal locomotor output
  • surface electromyography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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