Driving oscillatory activity in the human cortex enhances motor performance

Raed A Joundi, Ned Jenkinson, John-Stuart Brittain, Tipu Z Aziz, Peter Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Citations (Scopus)


Voluntary movement is accompanied by changes in the degree to which neurons in the brain synchronize their activity within discrete frequency ranges. Two patterns of movement-related oscillatory activity stand out in human cortical motor areas. Activity in the beta frequency (15-30 Hz) band is prominent during tonic contractions but is attenuated prior to and during voluntary movement. Without such attenuation, movement may be slowed, leading to the suggestion that beta activity promotes postural and tonic contraction, possibly at a cost to the generation of new movements. In contrast, activity in the gamma (60-90 Hz) band increases during movement. The direction of change suggests that gamma activity might facilitate motor processing. In correspondence with this, increased frontal gamma activity is related with reduced reaction times. Yet the possibility remains that these functional correlations reflect an epiphenomenal rather than causal relationship. Here we provide strong evidence that oscillatory activities at the cortical level are mechanistically involved in determining motor behavior and can even improve performance. By driving cortical oscillations using noninvasive electrical stimulation, we show opposing effects at beta and gamma frequencies and interactions with motor task that reveal the potential quantitative importance of oscillations in motor behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-7
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2012


  • Brain Mapping
  • Brain Waves
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Efferent Pathways
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Motor Cortex
  • Movement
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Neurons
  • Reaction Time
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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