Somatosensory demands modulate muscular Beta oscillations, independent of motor demands.
van Ede F., Maris E.
Neural oscillations in the beta band (15-30 Hz) occur coherently throughout the primate somatomotor network, comprising somatomotor cortices, basal ganglia, thalamus, cerebellum, and spinal cord, with the latter resulting in beta oscillations in muscular activity. In accordance with the anatomy of this network, these oscillations have traditionally been associated strictly with motor function. Here we show in humans that somatosensory demands, both in anticipation and during the processing of tactile stimuli, also modulate beta oscillations throughout this network. Specifically, somatosensory demands suppress the degree to which not only cortical activity but also muscular activity oscillates in the beta band. This suppression of muscular beta oscillations by perceptual demands is specific to demands in the somatosensory modality and occurs independent of movement preparation and execution: it occurs even when no movement is required at all. This places touch perception as an important computation within this widely distributed somatomotor beta network and suggests that, at least in healthy subjects, somatosensation and action should not be considered as separable processes, not even at the level of the muscles.