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Beta oscillations in human sensorimotor cortex are hallmark signatures of healthy and pathological movement. In single trials, beta oscillations include bursts of intermittent, transient periods of high-power activity. These burst events have been linked to a range of sensory and motor processes, but their precise spatial, spectral, and temporal structure remains unclear. Specifically, a role for beta burst activity in information coding and communication suggests spatiotemporal patterns, or travelling wave activity, along specific anatomical gradients. We here show in human magnetoencephalography recordings that burst activity in sensorimotor cortex occurs in planar spatiotemporal wave-like patterns that dominate along two axes either parallel or perpendicular to the central sulcus. Moreover, we find that the two propagation directions are characterised by distinct anatomical and physiological features. Finally, our results suggest that sensorimotor beta bursts occurring before and after a movement can be distinguished by their anatomical, spectral, and spatiotemporal characteristics, indicating distinct functional roles.

Original publication




Journal article




eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd

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