Key points: Several behavioural studies have shown the sensory perceptions are reduced during movement; yet the neurophysiological reason for this is not clear. Participants underwent stimulation of the median nerve when either sitting quietly (i.e. passive stimulation condition) or performing haptic exploration of a ball with the left hand. Magnetoencephalographic brain imaging and advanced beamforming methods were used to identify the differences in somatosensory cortical responses. We show that the neural populations active during the passive stimulation condition were strongly gated during the haptic exploration task. These results imply that the reduced haptic perceptions might be governed by gating of certain somatosensory neural populations. Abstract: Several behavioural studies have shown that children have reduced sensory perceptions during movement; however, the neurophysiological nexus for these altered perceptions remains unknown. We used magnetoencephalographic brain imaging and advanced beamforming methods to address this knowledge gap. In our experiment, a cohort of children (aged 10–18 years) underwent stimulation of the median nerve when either sitting quietly (i.e. passive stimulation condition) or performing haptic exploration of a ball with the left hand. Our results revealed two novel observations. First, there was a relationship between the child's age and the strength of the beta (18–26 Hz) response seen within the somatosensory cortices during the passive stimulation condition. This suggests that there may be an age-dependent change in the processing of peripheral feedback by the somatosensory cortices. Second, all of the cortical regions that were active during the passive stimulation condition were almost completely gated during the haptic task. Instead, the haptic task involved neural oscillations within Brodmann area 2, which is known to convey less spatially precise tactile information but is involved in the processing of more complex somatosensations across the respective digits. These results imply that the reduced somatosensory perceptions seen during movements in healthy children may be related to the gating of certain neural generators, as well as activation of haptic-specific neural generators within the somatosensory cortices. The utilization of such haptic-specific circuits during development may lead to the enhanced somatosensory processing during haptic exploration seen in healthy adults.
- Cortical Oscillations
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