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Research Meeting, Freek van Ede (Donders University)

Abstract: Neural oscillations in the beta-band (15-30Hz) occur coherently throughout the primate somatomotor network, comprising somatomotor cortices, basal ganglia, thalamus, cerebellum and spinal cord (evidenced from beta oscillations in muscular activity). In accordance with the anatomy of this network, these oscillations have traditionally been associated strictly with motor function. In my talk I will argue that touch perception must be considered as an additional computation within this network. First, I will show that tactile detection performance is inversely related to the amplitude of prestimulus beta oscillations in contralateral primary somatomotor cortex (studied using MEG). I will then show that, in accordance with this relation, these beta oscillations are contralateral suppressed both in anticipation and during the processing of tactile stimuli. Finally, I will show that these modulations occur not only in cortex, but also at the level of the spinal cord (as evidenced from corresponding modulations in muscular beta oscillations observed in the EMG). Crucially, these observations cannot be explained by movement preparation and execution. These data therefore place touch perception as an important computation within this widely distributed somatomotor beta-network. In addition, these data suggest that, from a physiological perspective, somatosensation and action should not be considered as separable processes, not even at the level of the muscles.