Cortical spectral activity and connectivity during active and viewed arm and leg movement

Julia E. Kline, Helen J. Huang, Kristine L. Snyder, Daniel P. Ferris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Active and viewed limb movement activate many similar neural pathways, however, to date most comparison studies have focused on subjects making small, discrete movements of the hands and feet. The purpose of this study was to determine if high-density electroencephalography (EEG) could detect differences in cortical activity and connectivity during active and viewed rhythmic arm and leg movements in humans. Our primary hypothesis was that we would detect similar but weaker electrocortical spectral fluctuations and effective connectivity fluctuations during viewed limb exercise compared to active limb exercise due to the similarities in neural recruitment. A secondary hypothesis was that we would record stronger cortical spectral fluctuations for arm exercise compared to leg exercise, because rhythmic arm exercise would be more dependent on supraspinal control than rhythmic leg exercise. We recorded EEG data while ten young healthy subjects exercised on a recumbent stepper with: (1) both arms and legs, (2) just legs, and (3) just arms. Subjects also viewed video playback of themselves or another individual performing the same exercises. We performed independent component analysis, dipole fitting, spectral analysis, and effective connectivity analysis on the data. Cortical areas comprising the premotor and supplementary motor cortex, the anterior cingulate, the posterior cingulate, and the parietal cortex exhibited significant spectral fluctuations during rhythmic limb exercise. These fluctuations tended to be greater for the arms exercise conditions than for the legs only exercise condition, which suggests that human rhythmic arm movements are under stronger cortical control than rhythmic leg movements. We did not find consistent spectral fluctuations in these areas during the viewed conditions, but effective connectivity fluctuated at harmonics of the exercise frequency during both active and viewed rhythmic limb exercise. The right premotor and supplementary motor cortex drove the network. These results suggest that a similarly interconnected neural network is in operation during active and viewed human rhythmic limb movement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number91
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 10 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by Army Research Laboratory (ARL; W911NF-10-2-0022) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH; R01 NS-073649). We thank Taylor Southworth and Bryan Schlink for assisting with data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Kline, Huang, Snyder and Ferris.


  • Connectivity
  • EEG
  • ICA
  • Motor control
  • Viewed movement


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