Rhythmic Spontaneous Activity Mediates the Age-Related Decline in Somatosensory Function

Rachel K. Spooner, Alex I. Wiesman, Amy L. Proskovec, Elizabeth Heinrichs-Graham, Tony W. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Sensory gating is a neurophysiological process whereby the response to a second stimulus in a pair of identical stimuli is attenuated, and it is thought to reflect the capacity of the CNS to preserve neural resources for behaviorally relevant stimuli. Such gating is observed across multiple sensory modalities and is modulated by age, but the mechanisms involved are not understood. In this study, we examined somatosensory gating in 68 healthy adults using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and advanced oscillatory and time-domain analysis methods. MEG data underwent source reconstruction and peak voxel time series data were extracted to evaluate the dynamics of somatosensory gating, and the impact of spontaneous neural activity immediately preceding the stimulation. We found that gating declined with increasing age and that older adults had significantly reduced gating relative to younger adults, suggesting impaired local inhibitory function. Most importantly, older adults had significantly elevated spontaneous activity preceding the stimulation, and this effect fully mediated the impact of aging on sensory gating. In conclusion, gating in the somatosensory system declines with advancing age and this effect is directly tied to increased spontaneous neural activity in the primary somatosensory cortices, which is likely secondary to age-related declines in local GABA inhibitory function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-688
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019


  • aging
  • magnetoencephalography
  • somatosensory gating
  • spontaneous neural activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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