Manipulation of peripheral neural feedback loops alters human corticomuscular coherence

J Physiol. 2005 Jul 15;566(Pt 2):625-39. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2005.089607. Epub 2005 May 26.


Sensorimotor EEG shows approximately 20 Hz coherence with contralateral EMG. This could involve efferent and/or afferent components of the sensorimotor loop. We investigated the pathways responsible for coherence genesis by manipulating nervous conduction delays using cooling. Coherence between left sensorimotor EEG and right EMG from three hand and two forearm muscles was assessed in healthy subjects during the hold phase of a precision grip task. The right arm was then cooled to 10 degrees C for approximately 90 min, increasing peripheral motor conduction time (PMCT) by approximately 35% (assessed by F-wave latency). EEG and EMG recordings were repeated, and coherence recalculated. Control recordings revealed a heterogeneous subject population. In 6/15 subjects (Group A), the corticomuscular coherence phase increased linearly with frequency, as expected if oscillations were propagated along efferent pathways from cortex to muscle. The mean corticomuscular conduction delay for intrinsic hand muscles calculated from the phase-frequency regression slope was 10.4 ms; this is smaller than the delay expected for conduction over fast corticospinal pathways. In 8/15 subjects (Group B), the phase showed no dependence with frequency. One subject showed both Group A and Group B patterns over different frequency ranges. Following cooling, averaged corticomuscular coherence was decreased in Group A subjects, but unchanged for Group B, even though both groups showed comparable slowing of nervous conduction. The delay calculated from the slope of the phase-frequency regression was increased following cooling. However, the size of this increase was around twice the rise in PMCT measured using the F-wave (regression slope 2.33, 95% confidence limits 1.30-3.36). Both afferent and efferent peripheral nerves will be slowed by similar amounts following cooling. The change in delay calculated from the coherence phase therefore better matches the rise in total sensorimotor feedback loop time caused by cooling, rather than just the change in the efferent limb. A model of corticomuscular coherence which assumes that only efferent pathways contribute cannot be reconciled to these results. The data rather suggest that afferent feedback pathways may also play a role in the genesis of corticomuscular coherence.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology
  • Cold Temperature
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Female
  • Forearm / blood supply
  • Forearm / physiology
  • Hand Strength / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology