Benedetto, A., Binda, P., Costagli, M., Tosetti, M., & Morrone, M. C.
Predictive visuo-motor communication through neural oscillations
The mechanisms coordinating action and perception over time are poorly understood. The sensory cortex needs to prepare for upcoming changes contingent on action, and this requires temporally precise communication that takes into account the variable delays between sensory and motor processing. Several theorists1,2 have proposed synchronization of the endogenous oscillatory activity observed in most regions of the brain3 as the basis for an efficient and flexible communication protocol between distal brain areas,2,4 a concept known as “communication through coherence.” Synchronization of endogenous oscillations5,6 occurs after a salient sensory stimulus, such as a flash or a sound,7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and after a voluntary action,12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and this directly impacts perception, causing performance to oscillate rhythmically over time. Here we introduce a novel fMRI paradigm to probe the neural sources of oscillations, based on the concept of perturbative signals, which overcomes the low temporal resolution of BOLD signals. The assumption is that a synchronized endogenous rhythm will modulate cortical excitability rhythmically, which should be reflected in the BOLD responses to brief stimuli presented at different phases of the oscillation cycle. We record rhythmic oscillations of V1 BOLD synchronized by a simple voluntary action, in phase with behaviorally measured oscillations in visual sensitivity in the theta range. The functional connectivity between V1 and M1 also oscillates at the same rhythm. By demonstrating oscillatory temporal coupling between primary motor and sensory cortices, our results strongly implicate communication through coherence to achieve precise coordination and to encode sensory-motor timing.