Movement-related processing results in the modulation of neuronal synchronization over several electroencephalography (EEG) frequency ranges, including alpha- (8–12 Hz) and beta-band (14–30 Hz). Whether modulation patterns differ across sites within the motor system remains unclear, but could denote how information is conveyed across the cortico-basal network. We therefore compared the event-related synchronization/desynchronization (ERS/ERD) in recordings from the scalp, basal ganglia and thalamic structures during a motor task.
Simultaneous depth and scalp EEG were recorded in 13 patients, undergoing deep brain stimulation of the thalamic ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) or the subthalamic nucleus (STN). They performed a choice-reaction task with pre-cued Go-signals, instructive for either left- or right-sided button presses.
In the beta-band, pre-cues and Go-signals were followed by ERD starting well before and peaking at task execution, uniformly in all cortical and subcortical recordings. In contrast, a comparable alpha-band ERD was only seen at the scalp, whereas mirror-like ERS were observed in the motor-inhibitory STN. In VIM, which receives strong somatosensory afferences, a major alpha-ERD upon the Go-signal did not start until the motor response.
These dissociations of task-related Alpha- and Beta-band dynamics tag a functional diversity in cortico-basal networks, which are simultaneously active in motor processing. Whereas the uniform downregulation of Beta-activity points to an anti-kinetic operation mode throughout the motor system, site-dependent courses of Alpha-synchronization rather reflect the coordination of activity levels in functionally divergent motor structures during the preparation and execution of movements.