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EEG during pedaling: evidence for cortical control of locomotor tasks. Clin Neurophysiol 2013 Feb;124(2):379-90



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OBJECTIVE: This study characterized the brain electrical activity during pedaling, a locomotor-like task, in humans. We postulated that phasic brain activity would be associated with active pedaling, consistent with a cortical role in locomotor tasks.

METHODS: Sixty four channels of electroencephalogram (EEG) and 10 channels of electromyogram (EMG) data were recorded from 10 neurologically-intact volunteers while they performed active and passive (no effort) pedaling on a custom-designed stationary bicycle. Ensemble averaged waveforms, 2 dimensional topographic maps and amplitude of the β (13-35 Hz) frequency band were analyzed and compared between active and passive trials.

RESULTS: The peak-to-peak amplitude (peak positive-peak negative) of the EEG waveform recorded at the Cz electrode was higher in the passive than the active trials (p < 0.01). β-band oscillations in electrodes overlying the leg representation area of the cortex were significantly desynchronized during active compared to the passive pedaling (p < 0.01). A significant negative correlation was observed between the average EEG waveform for active trials and the composite EMG (summated EMG from both limbs for each muscle) of the rectus femoris (r = -0.77, p < 0.01) the medial hamstrings (r = -0.85, p < 0.01) and the tibialis anterior (r = -0.70, p < 0.01) muscles.

CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrated that substantial sensorimotor processing occurs in the brain during pedaling in humans. Further, cortical activity seemed to be greatest during recruitment of the muscles critical for transitioning the legs from flexion to extension and vice versa.

SIGNIFICANCE: This is the first study demonstrating the feasibility of EEG recording during pedaling, and owing to similarities between pedaling and bipedal walking, may provide valuable insight into brain activity during locomotion in humans.

Author List

Jain S, Gourab K, Schindler-Ivens S, Schmit BD


Sheila Schindler-Ivens PhD Assistant Professor in the Physical Therapy department at Marquette University
Brian Schmit PhD Professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Marquette University

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Brain Mapping
Brain Waves
Feasibility Studies
Motor Activity
Motor Cortex
Somatosensory Cortex