Rectification of the EMG is an Unnecessary Step in the Calculation of Cortico-muscular Coherence
Corticomuscular coherence (CMC) estimation is a frequency domain method used to detect a linear coupling between rhythmic activity recorded from sensorimotor cortex (EEG or MEG) and the elec- tromyogram (EMG) of active muscles. In motor neuroscience, rectification of the surface EMG is a common pre-processing step prior to calculating CMC, intended to maximize information about action potential timing, whilst suppressing information relating to motor unit action potential (MUAP) shape. Rectifica- tion is believed to produce a general shift in the EMG spectrum towards lower frequencies, including those around the mean motor unit discharge rate. However, there are no published data to support the claim that EMG rectification enhances the detection of CMC. Furthermore, performing coherence anal- ysis after the non-linear procedure of rectification, which results in a significant distortion of the EMG spectrum, is considered fundamentally flawed in engineering and digital signal processing. We calculated CMC between sensorimotor cortex EEG and EMG of two hand muscles during a key grip task in 14 healthy subjects. CMC calculated using unrectified and rectified EMG was compared. The use of rectified EMG did not enhance the detection of CMC, nor was there any evidence that MUAP shape information had an adverse effect on the CMC estimation. EMG rectification had inconsistent effects on the power and coherence spectra and obscured the detection of CMC in some cases. We also provide a comprehensive theoretical analysis, which, along with our empirical data, demonstrates that rectification is neither necessary nor appropriate in the calculation of CMC.