We examined sensorimotor brain activity associated with voluntary movements in preschool children using a customized pediatric magnetoencephalographic system. A videogame-like task was used to generate self-initiated right or left index finger movements in 17 healthy right-handed subjects (8 females, ages 3.2-4.8 years). We successfully identified spatiotemporal patterns of movement-related brain activity in 15/17 children using beamformer source analysis and surrogate MRI spatial normalization. Readiness fields in the contralateral sensorimotor cortex began ∼0.5 s prior to movement onset (motor field, MF), followed by transient movement-evoked fields (MEFs), similar to that observed during self-paced movements in adults, but slightly delayed and with inverted source polarities. We also observed modulation of mu (8-12 Hz) and beta (15-30 Hz) oscillations in sensorimotor cortex with movement, but with different timing and a stronger frequency band coupling compared to that observed in adults. Adult-like high-frequency (70-80 Hz) gamma bursts were detected at movement onset. All children showed activation of the right superior temporal gyrus that was independent of the side of movement, a response that has not been reported in adults. These results provide new insights into the development of movement-related brain function, for an age group in which no previous data exist. The results show that children under 5 years of age have markedly different patterns of movement-related brain activity in comparison to older children and adults, and indicate that significant maturational changes occur in the sensorimotor system between the preschool years and later childhood.
Keywords: MEG; beamformers; development; movement-related fields; mu rhythm; sensorimotor oscillations.
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