Reliability of Tibialis Anterior Muscle Voluntary Activation Using the Interpolated Twitch Technique and the Central Activation Ratio in People With Stroke
Voluntary activation (VA) is measured by applying supramaximal electrical stimulation to a muscle during a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC). The amplitude of the evoked muscle twitch is used to determine any VA deficit, and indicates incomplete central neural drive to the motor units. People with stroke experience VA deficits and greater levels of central fatigue, which is the decrease in VA that occurs following exercise. This study investigated the between-session reliability of VA and central fatigue of the tibialis anterior muscle (TA) in people with chronic stroke (n = 12), using the interpolated twitch technique (ITT), adjusted-ITT, and central activation ratio (CAR) methods. On two separate sessions, supramaximal electrical stimulation was applied to the TA when it was at rest and maximally activated, at the start and end of a 30-s isometric dorsiflexor MVC. The most reliable measures of VA were obtained using the CAR calculation on transformed data, which produced an ICC of 0.92, and a lower bound confidence interval in the good range (95% CI 0.77 to 0.98). Reliability was lower for the CAR calculation on non-transformed data (ICC 0.82, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.91) and the ITT and adjusted-ITT calculations on transformed data (ICCs 0.82, 95% CIs 0.51 to 0.94), which had lower bound confidence intervals in the moderate range. The two ITT calculations on non-transformed data demonstrated the poorest reliability (ICCs 0.62, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.74). Central fatigue measures demonstrated very poor reliability. Thus, the reliability for VA in people with chronic stroke ranged from good to poor, depending on the calculation method and statistical analysis method, whereas the reliability for central fatigue was very poor.