Voluntary Inhibition of Physiological Mirror Activity: An EEG-EMG Study

eNeuro. 2020 Oct 28;7(5):ENEURO.0326-20.2020. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0326-20.2020. Print 2020 Sep/Oct.


Physiological mirror activity (pMA), observed in healthy human adults, describes the involuntary co-activation of contralateral homologous muscles during unilateral limb movements. Here we provide novel evidence, using neuromuscular measurements (electromyography; EMG), that the amplitude of pMA can be voluntarily inhibited during unilateral isometric contractions of intrinsic hand muscles after informing human participants (10 male, 10 female) about its presence and establishing a basic understanding of pMA mechanisms through a standardized protocol. Importantly, significant suppression of pMA was observed immediately after participants were asked to inhibit it, despite the absence of any online feedback during task execution and without special training. Moreover, we observed that the decrease of pMA was specifically accompanied by an increase in relative frontal δ power recorded with electroencephalography (EEG). Correlation analysis further revealed an inverse association between the individual amplitude of pMA and frontal δ power that reached significance once participants started to inhibit. Taken together, these results suggest that δ power in frontal regions might reflect executive processes exerting inhibitory control over unintentional motor output, in this case pMA. Our results provide an initial reference point for the development of therapeutic applications related to the neurorehabilitation of involuntary movements which could be realized through the suppression of pMA observed in the elderly before it would fully manifest in undesirable overt movement patterns.

Keywords: EEG; EMG; inhibition; physiological mirror activity; δ power.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hand*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction*
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal