Abstract

The sensorimotor beta rhythm (∼13–30 Hz) is commonly seen in relation to movement. It is important to understand its functional/behavioral significance in both health and disease. Sorting out competing theories of sensorimotor beta is hampered by a paucity of experimental protocols in humans that manipulate/induce beta oscillations and test their putative effects on concurrent behavior. Here, we developed a novel behavioral paradigm to generate beta and then test its functional relevance. In two human experiments with scalp EEG (n = 11 and 15), we show that a movement instruction generates a high beta state (postmovement beta rebound), which then slows down subsequent movements required during that state. We also show that this high initial beta rebound related to reduced mu–beta desynchronization for the subsequent movement and further that the temporal features of the beta state, that is, the beta bursts related to the degree of slowing. These results suggest that increased sensorimotor beta in the postmovement period corresponds to an inhibitory state—insofar as it retards subsequent movement. By demonstrating a behavioral method by which people can proactively create a high beta state, our paradigm provides opportunities to test the effect of this state on sensations and affordances. It also suggests related experiments using motor imagery rather than actual movement, and this could later be clinically relevant, for example, in tic disorder.

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