Alpha oscillations modulate premotor-cerebellar connectivity in motor learning: Insights from transcranial alternating current stimulation

Christine Schubert, Alhuda Dabbagh, Joseph Classen, Ulrike M. Krämer, Elinor Tzvi*

*Corresponding author for this work
10 Citations (Scopus)


Alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz) have been suggested to play an important role in dynamic neural processes underlying learning and memory. The goal of this study was to scrutinize the role of alpha oscillations in communication within a cortico-cerebellar network implicated in motor sequence learning. To this end, we conducted two EEG experiments using a serial reaction time task. In the first experiment, we explored changes in alpha power and cross-channel alpha coherence as subjects learned a motor sequence. We found a gradual decrease in spectral alpha power over left premotor cortex (PMC) and sensorimotor cortex (SM1) during learning blocks. In addition, alpha coherence between left PMC/SM1 and left cerebellar crus I was specifically decreased during sequence learning, possibly reflecting a functional decoupling in the broader motor learning network. In the second experiment in a different cohort, we applied 10Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a method shown to entrain local oscillatory activity, to left M1 (lM1) and right cerebellum (rCB) during sequence learning. We observed a tendency for diminished learning following rCB tACS compared to sham, but not following lM1 tACS. Learning-related alpha power following rCB tACS was increased in left PMC, possibly reflecting increase in local inhibitory neural activity. Importantly, learning-specific alpha coherence between left PMC and right cerebellar lobule VIIb was enhanced following rCB tACS. These findings provide strong evidence for a causal role of alpha oscillations in controlling information transfer in a premotor-cerebellar loop during motor sequence learning. Our findings are consistent with a model in which sequence learning may be impaired by enhancing premotor cortical alpha oscillation via external modulation of cerebellar oscillations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118410
Publication statusPublished - 01.11.2021

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