Modulation of Beta Bursts in the Subthalamic Nucleus Predicts Motor Performance.
Beta oscillations are special patterns of electrical activity generated by nerve cells. Beta oscillations in the subthalamic nucleus, a part of the brain, are associated with Parkinson’s. Here, we studied how short episodes of increased beta oscillations (so-called ‘beta bursts’) explain variations in reaching movements made by people with Parkinson’s. We show that, depending on when beta bursts appear in the brain, they can reduce the speed of forthcoming movements.
Considerable evidence suggests a role of beta-band oscillations in voluntary movements. However, most of the studies linking beta power to motor performance are based on data averaged across trials that ignore the fast dynamics of oscillatory activity and trial-to-trial variations in motor responses. Recently, emphasis has shifted from the functional implications of the mean beta power to the presence and nature of episodic bursts of beta activity. Here we test the hypothesis that beta bursts, though short in duration in more physiological state, may help explain spontaneous variations in motor behavior of human adults at the single-trial level. To this end, we recorded local field potential activity from the subthalamic nucleus of parkinsonian patients of both genders whose motor behavior had been normalized as far as possible through treatment with the dopamine prodrug, levodopa. We found that beta bursts present in a time-limited window well before movement onset in the contralateral subthalamic nucleus reduce the peak velocity of that movement and that this effect is further amplified by the amplitude of the burst. Additionally, prolonged reaction times are observed when bursts occur immediately after the GO cue. Together, these results suggest that the modulation of the timing and amplitude of beta bursts might serve to dynamically adapt motor performance. These results offer new insight in the pathology of Parkinson's disease, and suggest that beta bursts whose presence and nature are modulated by context may have a physiological role in modulating behavior.