Chronic assessment of diaphragm muscle EMG activity across motor behaviors

Abstract The diaphragm muscle is the main inspiratory muscle in mammals. Quantitative analyses documenting the reliability of chronic diaphragm EMG recordings are lacking. Assessment of ventilatory and non-ventilatory motor behaviors may facilitate evaluating diaphragm EMG activity over time. We hypothesized that normalization of diaphragm EMG amplitude across behaviors provides stable and reliable parameters for longitudinal assessments of diaphragm activity. We found that diaphragm EMG activity shows substantial intra-animal variability over 6 weeks, with coefficient of variation (CV) for different behaviors ∼29–42%. Normalization of diaphragm EMG activity to near maximal behaviors (e.g., deep breathing) reduced intra-animal variability over time (CV ∼ 22–29%). Plethysmographic measurements of eupneic ventilation were also stable over 6 weeks (CV ∼ 13% for minute ventilation). Thus, stable and reliable measurements of diaphragm EMG activity can be obtained longitudinally using chronically implanted electrodes by examining multiple motor behaviors. By quantitatively determining the reliability of longitudinal diaphragm EMG analyses, we provide an important tool for evaluating the progression of diseases or injuries that impair ventilation. Highlights ► Diaphragm EMG activity shows substantial variability within animals over time. ► Chronically implanted electrodes allow longitudinal assessment of diaphragm activity. ► Stable and reliable measurements can be obtained by examining multiple motor behaviors. Keywords Respiration; Motor unit recruitment; Ventilation; Hypoxia; Hypercapnia; Neuromotor control