Laminar dynamics of high amplitude beta bursts in human motor cortex


Modulation of motor cortical activity in the beta frequency range is one of the strongest and most studied movement-related neural signals. At the single trial level, beta band activity is often characterized by transient bursting events rather than slowly modulating oscillations, suggesting a more rapid, information-encoding functional role than previously believed. Insight into how beta bursts are generated in sensorimotor circuits can provide important constraints to theories about their functional role for movement control. To this end, we leverage and extend recent developments in high precision MEG for temporally resolved laminar analysis of burst activity, combined with a neocortical circuit model that simulates the biophysical generators of the electrical currents which drive beta bursts. This approach pinpoints the generation of beta bursts in human motor cortex to distinct excitatory synaptic inputs to deep and superficial cortical layers, which drive current flow in opposite directions. These laminar dynamics of beta bursts in motor cortex align with prior invasive animal recordings within the somatosensory cortex, and suggest a conserved mechanism for somatosensory and motor cortical beta bursts. More generally, we demonstrate the ability for uncovering the laminar dynamics of event-related neural signals in human non-invasive recordings.