Cortical beta oscillations (13-30 Hz) reflect sensorimotor cortical activity, but have not been fully investigated in balance recovery behavior. We hypothesized that more challenging balance conditions would lead to greater recruitment of cortical sensorimotor brain regions for balance recovery. We predicted that beta power would be enhanced when balance recovery is more challenging, either due to more difficult perturbations or due to lower intrinsic balance ability. In 19 young adults, we measured beta power evoked over motor cortical areas (Cz electrode) during 3 magnitudes of backward support-surface translational perturbations using electroencephalography. Peak beta power was measured during early (50-150 ms), late (150-250 ms), and overall (0-400 ms) time bins, and wavelet-based analyses quantified the time course of evoked beta power and agonist and antagonist ankle muscle activity. We further assessed the relationship between individual balance ability measured in a challenging beam walking task and perturbation-evoked beta power within each time bin. In balance perturbations, cortical beta power increased ~50 ms after perturbation onset, demonstrating greater increases with increasing perturbation magnitude. Balance ability was negatively associated with peak beta power in only the late (150-250 ms) time bin, with higher beta power in individuals who performed worse in the beam walking task. Additionally, the time course of cortical beta power followed a similar waveform as the evoked muscle activity, suggesting these evoked responses may be initially evoked by shared underlying mechanisms. These findings support the active role of sensorimotor cortex in balance recovery behavior, with greater recruitment of cortical resources under more challenging balance conditions. Cortical beta power may therefore provide a biomarker for engagement of sensorimotor cortical resources during reactive balance recovery and reflect the individual level of balance challenge.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience