Motor system recruitment during action observation: No correlation between mu-rhythm desynchronization and corticospinal excitability

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Lapenta O.M.
Ferrari E.
Boggio P.S.
Fadiga L.
D'Ausilio A.
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© 2018 Lapenta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Observing others’ actions desynchronizes electroencephalographic (EEG) rhythms and modulates corticospinal excitability as assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). However, it remains unclear if these measures reflect similar neurofunctional mechanisms at the individual level. In the present study, a within-subject experiment was designed to assess these two neurophysiological indexes and to quantify their mutual correlation. Participants observed reach-to-grasp actions directed towards a small (precision grip) or a large object (power grip). We focused on two specific time points for both EEG and TMS. The first time point (t1) coincided with the maximum hand aperture, i.e. the moment at which a significant modulation of corticospinal excitability is expected. The second (t2), coincided with the EEG resynchronization occurring at the end of the action, i.e. the moment at which a hypothetic minimum for action observation effect is expected. Results showed a Mu rhythm bilateral desynchronization at t1 with differential resynchronization at t2 in the two hemispheres. Beta rhythm was more desynchronized in the left hemisphere at both time points. These EEG differences, however, were not influenced by grip type. Conversely, motor potentials evoked by TMS in an intrinsic hand muscle revealed an interaction effect of grip and time. No significant correlations between Mu/Beta rhythms and motor evoked potentials were found. These findings are discussed considering the spatial and temporal resolution of the two investigated techniques and argue over two alternative explanations: i. each technique provides different measures of the same process or ii. they describe complementary features of the action observation network in humans.
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Adult , Biomechanical Phenomena , Brain Mapping , Brain Waves , Cortical Excitability , Electroencephalography , Electromyography , Female , Fingers , Hand , Humans , Male , Nails , Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
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