Neural oscillatory activity serving sensorimotor control is predicted by superoxide-sensitive mitochondrial redox environments

Rachel K. Spooner, Brittany K. Taylor, Iman M. Ahmad, Kelsey N. Dyball, Katy Emanuel, Howard S. Fox, Kelly L. Stauch, Matthew C. Zimmerman, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Motor control requires a coordinated ensemble of spatiotemporally precise neural oscillations across a distributed motor network, particularly in the beta range (15 to 30 Hz) to successfully plan and execute volitional actions. While substantial evidence implicates beta activity as critical to motor control, the molecular processes supporting these microcircuits and their inherent oscillatory dynamics remain poorly understood. Among these processes are mitochondrial integrity and the associated redox environments, although their direct impact on human neurophysiological function is unknown. Herein, 40 healthy adults completed a motor sequence paradigm during magnetoencephalography (MEG). MEG data were imaged in the time–frequency domain using a beamformer to evaluate beta oscillatory profiles during distinct phases of motor control (i.e., planning and execution) and subsequent behavior. To comprehensively quantify features of the mitochondrial redox environment, we used state-of-the-art systems biology approaches including Seahorse Analyzer to assess mitochondrial respiration and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure superoxide levels in whole blood as well as antioxidant activity assays. Using structural equation modeling, we tested the relationship between mitochondrial function and sensorimotor brain-behavior dynamics through alterations in the redox environment (e.g., generation of superoxide and alteration in antioxidant defenses). Our results indicated that superoxide-sensitive but not hydrogen peroxide–sensitive features of the redox environment had direct and mediating effects on the bioenergetic–neural pathways serving motor performance in healthy adults. Importantly, our results suggest that alterations in the redox environment may directly impact behavior above and beyond mitochondrial respiratory capacities alone and further may be effective targets for age- and disease-related declines in cognitive–motor function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2104569118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 26 2021


  • EPR spectroscopy
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Mitochondrial respiration
  • Seahorse Analyzer
  • Superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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