Heightened reliance on the cerebral cortex for postural stability with aging is well-known, yet the cortical dynamics of balance control, particularly in relationship to balance function, is unclear. Here we aimed to investigate motor cortical activity in relationship to the level of balance challenge presented during reactive balance recovery, and identify circuit-specific interactions between motor cortex and prefrontal or somatosensory regions to metrics of balance function that predict fall risk. Using electroencephalography, we assessed motor cortical beta power, and beta coherence during balance reactions to perturbations in older adults. We found that individuals with greater somatosensory-motor beta coherence at baseline and lower beta power evoked over motor regions following perturbations demonstrated higher general clinical balance function. At the group-level, beta coherence between prefrontal-motor regions reduced during balance reactions. Older adults with the highest post-perturbation prefrontal-motor coherence showed greater cognitive dual-task interference and elicited stepping reactions at lower perturbation magnitudes. Our results support motor cortical beta activity as a potential biomarker for individual level of balance challenge and implicate prefrontal- and somatosensory-motor cortical networks in different aspects of balance control in older adults. Cortical network activity during balance may provide a neural target for precision-medicine efforts aimed at fall-prevention with aging.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience