PublicationsRandom Tactile Noise Stimulation Reveals Beta-Rhythmic Impulse Response Function of the Somatosensory System
Both passive tactile stimulation and motor actions result in dynamic changes in beta band (15-30 Hz Hz) oscillations over somatosensory cortex. Similar to alpha band (8-12 Hz) power decrease in the visual system, beta band power also decreases following stimulation of the somatosensory system. This relative suppression of α and β oscillations is generally interpreted as an increase in cortical excitability. Here, next to traditional single-pulse stimuli, we employed a random intensity continuous right index finger tactile stimulation (white noise), which enabled us to uncover an impulse response function (IRF) of the somatosensory system. Contrary to previous findings, we demonstrate a burst-like initial increase rather than decrease of beta activity following white noise stimulation (human participants, N = 18, 8 female). These β bursts, on average, lasted for three cycles and their frequency was correlated with resonant frequency of somatosensory cortex, as measured by a multi-frequency steady-state somatosensory evoked potential (SSSEP) paradigm. Furthermore, beta band bursts shared spectro-temporal characteristics with evoked and resting-state β oscillations. Taken together, our findings not only reveal a novel oscillatory signature of somatosensory processing that mimics the previously reported visual IRFs, but also point to a common oscillatory generator underlying spontaneous β bursts in the absence of tactile stimulation and phase-locked β bursts following stimulation, the frequency of which is determined by the resonance properties of the somatosensory system.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTThe investigation of the transient nature of oscillations has gained great popularity in recent years. The findings of bursting activity rather than sustained oscillations in the beta band has provided important insights into its role in movement planning, working memory, inhibition and reactivation of neural ensembles. In this study, we show that also in response to tactile stimulation the somatosensory system responds with ∼3 cycle oscillatory beta band bursts, whose spectro-temporal characteristics are shared with evoked and resting-state beta band oscillatory signatures of the somatosensory system. As similar bursts have been observed in the visual domain, these oscillatory signatures might reflect an important supramodal mechanism in sensory processing.