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Imaging the human motor system's beta-band synchronization during isometric contraction

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Schoffelen, J.-M., Oostenveld, R., & Fries, P. (2008). Imaging the human motor system's beta-band synchronization during isometric contraction. NeuroImage, 41, 437-447. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2008.01.045.

Rhythmic synchronization likely subserves interactions among neuronal groups. One of the best studied rhythmic synchronization phenomena in the human nervous system is the beta-band (15-30 Hz) synchronization in the motor system. In this study, we imaged structures across the human brain that are synchronized to the motor system's beta rhythm. We recorded whole-head magnetoencephalograms (MEG) and electromyograms (EMG) of left/right extensor carpi radialis muscle during left/right wrist extension. We analyzed coherence, on the one hand between the EMG and neuronal sources in the brain, and on the other hand between different brain sources, using a spatial filtering approach. Cortico-muscular coherence analysis revealed a spatial maximum of coherence to the muscle in motor cortex contralateral to the muscle in accordance with earlier findings. Moreover, by applying a two-dipole source model, we unveiled significantly coherent clusters of voxels in the ipsilateral cerebellar hemisphere and ipsilateral cerebral motor regions. The spatial pattern of coherence to the right and left arm EMG was roughly mirror reversed across the midline, in agreement with known physiology. Subsequently, we analyzed the brain-wide pattern of beta-band coherence to the motor cortex contralateral to the contracting muscle. This analysis did not reveal any convincing pattern. Because the prior cortico-muscular analysis had demonstrated the expected pattern in our data, this negative finding demonstrates a current limitation of the applied method for cortico-cortical coherence analysis. We conclude that during an isometric muscle contraction, several distributed brain regions form a brain-wide beta-band network for motor control.