Alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz) have been shown to play an important role in dynamic neural processes underlying learning and memory. The goal of this study was to scrutinize the role of oscillations for communication within the network implicated in motor sequence learning. To this end, we conducted two experiments using the serial reaction time task. In the first experiment, we explored changes in power and cross-channel coherence shortly before the motor response. We found a gradual decrease in learning-related power over left premotor cortex (PMC) and somatosensory areas. Connectivity between left PMC and right cerebellum was reduced for sequence learning, possibly reflecting a functional decoupling in the premotor-cerebellar loop during the motor learning process. In the second experiment in a different cohort, we applied 10Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a method shown to entrain local oscillatory activity, to left M1 (lM1) and right cerebellum (rCB) during sequence learning. We observed learning deficits during rCB tACS compared to sham, but not during lM1 tACS. In addition, learning-related power following rCB tACS was increased in PMC, possibly reflecting a decrease of neural activity. Importantly, learning-specific coherence between left PMC and a right cerebellar cluster was enhanced following rCB tACS. These findings suggest that interactions within a premotor-cerebellar loop, which are underlying motor sequence learning, are mediated by oscillations. We show that they can be modulated through external entrainment of cerebellar oscillations, which modulates motor cortical and interferes with sequence learning.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience