There is increasing evidence of the importance of synchronous activity within the corticospinal system for motor control. We compared oscillatory activity in the primary sensorimotor cortex [EEG of sensorimotor cortex (SMC-EEG)] and a motor neuronal pool [surface electromyogram of opponens pollicis (OP-EMG)], and their coherence in children (4 -12 years of age), young adults (20 -35 years of age), and elderly adults (>55 years of age). The ratio between lower (2-13 Hz) and higher (14-32 Hz) frequencies in both SMC-EEG and OP-EMG decreased with age, correlating inversely with motor performance. There was evidence for larger, more distributed cortical networks in the children and elderly compared with young adults. Corticomuscular coherence (CMC) was present in all age groups and shifted between frontal and parietal cortical areas. In children, CMC was smaller and less stationary in amplitude and frequency than in adults. Young adults had single peaks of CMC clustered near the modal frequency (23 Hz); multiple peaks with a broad spread of frequencies occurred in children and the elderly; the further the frequency of the maximum peak CMC was from 23 Hz, the poorer the performance. CMC amplitude was inversely related to performance in young adults but was not modulated in relation to performance in children and the elderly. We propose that progressive fine-tuning of the frequency coding and stabilization of the dynamic properties within and between corticospinal networks occurs during adolescence, refining the capacity for efficient dynamic communication in adulthood. In old age, blurring of the tuning between networks and breakdown in their integration occurs and is likely to contribute to a decrement in motor control.
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