History of electromyography and nerve conduction studies: A tribute to the founding fathers.

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Journal of clinical neuroscience : official journal of the Neurosurgical Society of Australasia, ISSN: 1532-2653, Vol: 43, Page: 54-60

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Kazamel, Mohamed; Warren, Paula Province
Elsevier BV
Neuroscience; Medicine
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The early development of nerve conduction studies (NCS) and electromyography (EMG) was linked to the discovery of electricity. This relationship had been concluded by observing the effect of applying electricity to the body of an animal and discovering that nerves and muscles themselves could produce electricity. We attempt to review the historical evolution of NCS and EMG over the last three centuries by reviewing the landmark publications of Galvani, Adrian, Denny-Brown, Larrabee, and Lambert. In 1771, Galvani showed that electrical stimulation of animal muscle tissue produced contraction and, thereby, the concept of animal electricity was born. In 1929, Adrian devised a method to record a single motor unit potential by connecting concentric needle electrodes to an amplifier and a loud speaker. In 1938, Denny-Brown described the fasciculation potentials and separated them from fibrillations. Toward the end of World War II, Larrabee began measuring the compound muscle action potential in healthy and injured nerves of war victims. In 1957, Lambert and Eaton described the electrophysiologic features of a new myasthenic syndrome associated with lung carcinoma. Overall, research on this topic was previously undertaken by neurophysiologists and then later by neurologists, with Adrian most likely being the first neurologist to be involved. The field greatly benefited from the invention of equipment that was capable of amplifying small bioelectrical currents by the beginning of the 20th century. Significant scientific and technical advances were later made during and after World War II which provided a large patient population with nerve injuries to study.