Transient beta activity and connectivity during sustained motor behaviour
Echeverria-Altuna I., Quinn AJ., Zokaei N., Woolrich MW., Nobre AC., van Ede F.
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Neural oscillations are thought to play a central role in orchestrating activity states between distant neural populations. In humans, long-range neural connectivity has been particularly well characterised for 13-30 Hz beta activity which becomes phase coupled between the motor cortex and the contralateral muscle during isometric contraction. Based on this and related observations, beta activity and connectivity have been linked to sustaining stable cognitive and motor states – or the ‘status quo’ – in the brain. Recently, however, beta activity has been shown to be short-lived, as opposed to sustained – though so far this has been reported for regional beta activity in tasks without sustained motor demands. Here, we measured magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electromyography (EMG) in 18 human participants performing an isometric-contraction (gripping) task designed to yield sustained behavioural output. If cortico-muscular beta connectivity is directly responsible for sustaining a stable motor state, then beta activity should be (or become) sustained in this context. In contrast, we found that beta activity and connectivity with the downstream muscle were transient, even when participants engaged in sustained gripping. Moreover, we found that sustained motor requirements did not prolong beta-event duration in comparison to rest. These findings suggest that long-range neural synchronisation may entail short ‘bursts’ of frequency-specific connectivity, even when task demands – and behaviour – are sustained.</jats:p><jats:sec><jats:title>Highlights</jats:title><jats:p><jats:list list-type="bullet"><jats:list-item><jats:p>Trial-average 13-30 Hz beta activity and connectivity with the muscle appear sustained during stable motor behaviour</jats:p></jats:list-item><jats:list-item><jats:p>Single-trial beta activity and connectivity are short-lived, even when motor behaviour is sustained</jats:p></jats:list-item><jats:list-item><jats:p>Sustained task demands do not prolong beta-event duration in comparison to resting state</jats:p></jats:list-item></jats:list></jats:p></jats:sec>