Since the first descriptions of sensorimotor rhythms by Berger (1929) and by Jasper and Penfield (1949), the potential role of beta oscillations (~13-30 Hz) in the brain has been intensely investigated. We start this review by showing that experimental studies in humans and monkeys have reached a consensus on the facts that sensorimotor beta power is low during movement, transiently increases after movement end (the "beta rebound") and tonically increases during object grasping. Recently, a new surge of studies exploiting more complex sensorimotor tasks including multiple events, such as instructed delay tasks, reveal novel characteristics of beta oscillatory activity. We therefore proceed by critically reviewing also this literature to understand whether modulations of beta oscillations in task epochs other than those during and after movement are consistent across studies, and whether they can be reconciled with a role for beta oscillations in sensorimotor transmission. We indeed find that there are additional processes that also strongly affect sensorimotor beta oscillations, such as visual cue anticipation and processing, fitting with the view that beta oscillations reflect heightened sensorimotor transmission beyond somatosensation. However, there are differences among studies, which may be interpreted more readily if we assume multiple processes, whose effects on the overall measured beta power overlap in time. We conclude that beta oscillations observed in sensorimotor cortex may serve large-scale communication between sensorimotor and other areas and the periphery.
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