Beta-Band Activity during Motor Planning Reflects Response Uncertainty

It has been known for many years that the power of beta-band oscillatory activity in motor-related brain regions decreases during the preparation and execution of voluntary movements. However, it is not clear yet whether the amplitude of this desynchronization is modulated by any parameter of the motor task. Here, we examined whether the degree of uncertainty about the upcoming movement direction modulated beta-band desynchronization during motor preparation. To this end, we recorded whole-head neuromagnetic signals while human subjects performed an instructed-delay reaching task with one, two, or three possible target directions. We found that the reduction of power of beta-band activity (16-28 Hz) during motor preparation was scaled relative to directional uncertainty. Furthermore, we show that the change of beta-band power correlates with the change of latency of response associated with response uncertainty. Finally, we show that the main source of beta-band desynchronization was located in the peri-Rolandic region. The results establish directional uncertainty as an important determinant of beta-band power during motor preparation and indicate that neural activity in the sensorimotor cortex during motor preparation covaries with directional uncertainty.