PLoS Biology (Oct 2020)

Visual detection is locked to the internal dynamics of cortico-motor control.

  • Alice Tomassini,
  • Eric Maris,
  • Pauline Hilt,
  • Luciano Fadiga,
  • Alessandro D'Ausilio

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 10
p. e3000898


Read online

Movements overtly sample sensory information, making sensory analysis an active-sensing process. In this study, we show that visual information sampling is not just locked to the (overt) movement dynamics but to the internal (covert) dynamics of cortico-motor control. We asked human participants to perform continuous isometric contraction while detecting unrelated and unpredictable near-threshold visual stimuli. The motor output (force) shows zero-lag coherence with brain activity (recorded via electroencephalography) in the beta-band, as previously reported. In contrast, cortical rhythms in the alpha-band systematically forerun the motor output by 200 milliseconds. Importantly, visual detection is facilitated when cortico-motor alpha (not beta) synchronization is enhanced immediately before stimulus onset, namely, at the optimal phase relationship for sensorimotor communication. These findings demonstrate an ongoing coupling between visual sampling and motor control, suggesting the operation of an internal and alpha-cycling visuomotor loop.