Adolescents demonstrate increasing mastery of motor actions with age. One prevailing hypothesis is that maturation of the somatosensory system during adolescence contributes to the improved motor control. However, limited efforts have been made to determine if somatosensory cortical processing is different in adolescents during movement. In this study, we used magnetoencephalographic brain imaging to begin addressing this knowledge gap by applying an electrical stimulation to the tibial nerve as adolescents (Age = 14.8 ± 2.5 yrs.) and adults (Age = 36.8 ± 5.0 yrs.) produced an isometric ankle plantarflexion force, or sat with no motor activity. Our results showed strong somatosensory cortical oscillations for both conditions in the alpha-beta (8–30 Hz) and gamma (38–80 Hz) ranges that occurred immediately after the stimulation (0–125 ms), and a beta (18–26 Hz) oscillatory response shortly thereafter (300–400 ms). Compared with the passive condition, all of these frequency specific cortical oscillations were attenuated while producing the ankle force. The attenuation of the alpha-beta response was greater in adolescents, while the adults had a greater attenuation of the beta response. These results imply that altered attenuation of the somatosensory cortical oscillations might be central to the under-developed somatosensory processing and motor performance characteristics in adolescents.
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