Practice modulates motor-related beta oscillations differently in adolescents and adults

James E. Gehringer, David J. Arpin, Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, Tony W. Wilson, Max J. Kurz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Key points: Magnetoencephalography data were acquired during a leg force task in pre-/post-practice sessions in adolescents and adults. Strong peri-movement alpha and beta oscillations were mapped to the cortex. Following practice, performance improved and beta oscillations were altered. Beta oscillations decreased in the sensorimotor cortex in adolescents after practice, but increased in adults. No pre-/post-practice differences were detected for alpha oscillations. Abstract: There is considerable evidence that there are motor performance and practice differences between adolescents and adults. Behavioural studies have suggested that these motor performance differences are simply due to experience. However, the neurophysiological nexus for these motor performance differences remains unknown. The present study investigates the short-term changes (e.g. fast motor learning) in the alpha and beta event-related desynchronizations (ERDs) associated with practising an ankle plantarflexion motor action. To this end, we utilized magnetoencephalography to identify changes in the alpha and beta ERDs in healthy adolescents (n = 21; age = 14 ± 2.1 years) and middle-aged adults (n = 22; age = 36.6 ± 5 years) after practising an isometric ankle plantarflexion target-matching task. After practice, all of the participants matched more targets and matched the targets faster, and had improved accuracy, faster reaction times and faster force production. However, the motor performance of the adults exceeded what was seen in the adolescents regardless of practice. In conjunction with the behavioural results, the strength of the beta ERDs across the motor planning and execution stages was reduced after practice in the sensorimotor cortices of the adolescents, but was stronger in the adults. No pre-/post-practice changes were found in the alpha ERDs. These outcomes suggest that there are age-dependent changes in the sensorimotor cortical oscillations after practising a motor task. We suspect that these noted differences might be related to familiarity with the motor task, GABA levels and/or maturational differences in the integrity of the white matter fibre tracts that comprise the respective cortical areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3203-3216
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • Adolescents
  • Frog Game
  • Learning
  • Lower Extremity
  • MEG
  • Motor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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