Neural control properties of the external anal sphincter in young and elderly women

Nicholas Dias, Chuan Zhang, Xuhong Li, Leila Neshatian, Francisco J. Orejuela, Yingchun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Aims: The prevalence of fecal incontinence (FI) increases with age and affects more than 15% of the elderly population. Sarcopenia, skeletal muscle structural, and functional decline with aging, is known to be caused by neuromuscular dysfunction. However, age-related alterations of the neuromuscular function of the external anal sphincter (EAS) have not been studied. This study aims to quantitatively characterize the effect of aging on the EAS by assessing the firing patterns and size of motor unit action potential (MUAP) using high-density surface electromyography (HD-sEMG) recording and analysis techniques. Methods: Thirteen young (31.0 ± 3.6 years) and 14 elderly (64.3 ± 6.2 years) healthy women were recruited for this study. EMG activity of the EAS during maximal voluntary contraction was recorded by a 64-Channel, HD-sEMG intra-rectal probe. HD-sEMG signals were decomposed into MUAP spike trains to extract the firing rate and amplitudes thereof. Results: HD-sEMG decomposition was successfully performed. For the young and elderly groups, mean motor unit (MU) firing rates of 11.4 ± 2.1 pulses per second (PPS) and 9.6 ± 2.3 PPS, and mean MUAP amplitudes of 45.2 ± 14.3 µV and 61.9 ± 21.2 µV were respectively obtained. Both the MU firing rate and MUAP amplitude were significantly different between two groups (P <.05). Moreover, the MUAP firing rate and amplitude correlated with age with a linear regression model (P <.05). Conclusions: This study represents the first effort to examine the effect of aging on the neuromuscular function of EAS. Results suggest an age-related impairment of lower motor neuron descending excitation to the EAS with a compensatory increase in mean MU size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1828-1833
Number of pages6
JournalNeurourology and Urodynamics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • external anal sphincter
  • motor unit action potential
  • motor unit control
  • multichannel electromyography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Urology


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