Objective: The purpose of the study was the assessment of activation patterns of the extensor digitorum brevis (EDB) muscle in healthy children, during walking at self-selected speed and cadence. Approach: To this end, statistical gait analysis was performed on surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals of the EDB, in a large number (hundreds) of strides per subject. sEMG data from the tibialis anterior (TA) and gastrocnemius lateralis (GL) were also investigated for comparative purposes. Main results: Results from 23 healthy children showed a large variability in the number of muscle activations, occurrence frequency, and onset-offset instants across considered strides. The assessment of different modalities of muscle activation allowed the identification of a single activity pattern, common to all the modalities and we were able to characterize the behavior of the EDB during the gait of healthy children. The pattern of EDB activity centered in two main regions of the gait cycle: in the second half of the stance phase (detected in 100% of subjects) and in the final swing phase (50%). Comparison with the TA and GL regions of activity suggested that the EDB and TA worked mainly as antagonist muscles for the ankle joint, while the EDB and GL did not oppose each other in action, but acted in synergy for the control of the ankle joint during walking. Significance: The 'Normality' pattern for the EDB activity reported here represents the first attempt to develop a reference for dynamic sEMG of the EDB in healthy children, enabling us to include the physiological variability of the phenomenon. Present results could be useful for discriminating physiological and pathological behavior in children and for deepening the maturation of the gait.
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