Cortico-muscular coherence (CMC) at beta frequency (13-30 Hz) occurs particularly during weak to moderate isometric contraction. It is a well-established measure of communication between the primary motor cortex (M1) and corresponding muscles revealing information about the integrity of the pyramidal system. Although the slowing of brain and muscle dynamics during healthy aging has been evidenced, functional communication as determined by CMC has not been investigated so far. Since decline of motor functions at higher age is likely to be associated with CMC changes, the present study aims at shedding light on the functionality of the motor system from a functional interaction perspective. To this end, CMC was investigated in 27 healthy subjects aging between 22 and 77 years during isometric contraction of their right forearm. Neuromagnetic activity was measured using whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG). Muscle activity was measured by means of surface electromyography (EMG) of the right extensor digitorum communis (EDC) muscle. Additionally, MEG-EMG phase lags were calculated in order to estimate conducting time. The analysis revealed CMC and M1 power amplitudes to be increased with age accompanied by slowing of M1, EMG, and CMC. Frequency changes were particularly found in subjects aged above 40 years suggesting that at this middle age, neurophysiological changes occur, possibly reflecting an early neurophysiological marker of seniority. Since MEG-EMG phase lags did not vary with age, changes cannot be explained by alterations of nerve conduction. We argue that the M1 power amplitude increase and the shift towards lower frequencies might represent a neurophysiological marker of healthy aging which is possibly compensated by increased CMC amplitude.
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