Open Access Research

Bayesian aggregation versus majority vote in the characterization of non-specific arm pain based on quantitative needle electromyography

Andrew Hamilton-Wright123*, Linda McLean1*, Daniel W Stashuk4 and Kristina M Calder1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Rehabilitation Therapy, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

2 Math and Computer Science, Mount Allison University, New Brunswick, Canada

3 Computing and Information Science, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

4 Department of Systems Design Engineering, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2010, 7:8  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-7-8

Published: 15 February 2010



Methods for the calculation and application of quantitative electromyographic (EMG) statistics for the characterization of EMG data detected from forearm muscles of individuals with and without pain associated with repetitive strain injury are presented.


A classification procedure using a multi-stage application of Bayesian inference is presented that characterizes a set of motor unit potentials acquired using needle electromyography. The utility of this technique in characterizing EMG data obtained from both normal individuals and those presenting with symptoms of "non-specific arm pain" is explored and validated. The efficacy of the Bayesian technique is compared with simple voting methods.


The aggregate Bayesian classifier presented is found to perform with accuracy equivalent to that of majority voting on the test data, with an overall accuracy greater than 0.85. Theoretical foundations of the technique are discussed, and are related to the observations found.


Aggregation of motor unit potential conditional probability distributions estimated using quantitative electromyographic analysis, may be successfully used to perform electrodiagnostic characterization of "non-specific arm pain." It is expected that these techniques will also be able to be applied to other types of electrodiagnostic data.