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Neuroimage. 2010 Sep;52(3):897-912. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.02.004. Epub 2010 Feb 10.

Transformations in oscillatory activity and evoked responses in primary somatosensory cortex in middle age: a combined computational neural modeling and MEG study.

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Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA.


Oscillatory brain rhythms and evoked responses are widely believed to impact cognition, but relatively little is known about how these measures are affected by healthy aging. The present study used MEG to examine age-related changes in spontaneous oscillations and tactile evoked responses in primary somatosensory cortex (SI) in healthy young (YA) and middle-aged (MA) adults. To make specific predictions about neurophysiological changes that mediate age-related MEG changes, we applied a biophysically realistic model of SI that accurately reproduces SI MEG mu rhythms, containing alpha (7-14 Hz) and beta (15-30 Hz) components, and evoked responses. Analyses of MEG data revealed a significant increase in prestimulus mu power in SI, driven predominately by greater mu-beta dominance, and a larger and delayed M70 peak in the SI evoked response in MA. Previous analysis with our computational model showed that the SI mu rhythm could be reproduced with a stochastic sequence of rhythmic approximately 10 Hz feedforward (FF) input to the granular layers of SI (representative of lemniscal thalamic input) followed nearly simultaneously by approximately 10 Hz feedback (FB) input to the supragranular layers (representative of input from high order cortical or non-specific thalamic sources) (Jones et al., 2009). In the present study, the model further predicted that the rhythmic FF and FB inputs become stronger with age. Further, the FB input is predicted to arrive more synchronously to SI on each cycle of the 10 Hz input in MA. The simulated neurophysiological changes are sufficient to account for the age-related differences in both prestimulus mu rhythms and evoked responses. Thus, the model predicts that a single set of neurophysiological changes intimately links these age-related changes in neural dynamics.

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