Cortical entrainment of human hypoglossal motor unit activities

Christopher M. Laine, Laura A. Nickerson, E. Fiona Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Output from the primary motor cortex contains oscillations that can have frequency-specific effects on the firing of motoneurons (MNs). Whereas much is known about the effects of oscillatory cortical drive on the output of spinal MN pools, considerably less is known about the effects on cranial motor nuclei, which govern speech/oromotor control. Here, we investigated cortical input to one such motor pool, the hypoglossal motor nucleus (HMN), which controls muscles of the tongue. We recorded intramuscular genioglossus electromyogram (EMG) and scalp EEG from healthy adult subjects performing a tongue protrusion task. Cortical entrainment of HMN population activity was assessed by measuring coherence between EEG and multiunit EMG activity. In addition, cortical entrainment of individual MN firing activity was assessed by measuring phase locking between single motor unit (SMU) action potentials and EEG oscillations. We found that cortical entrainment of multiunit activity was detectable within the 15- to 40-Hz frequency range but was inconsistent across recordings. By comparison, cortical entrainment of SMU spike timing was reliable within the same frequency range. Furthermore, this effect was found to be intermittent over time. Our study represents an important step in understanding corticomuscular synchronization in the context of human oromotor control and is the first study to document SMU entrainment by cortical oscillations in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-499
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Corticomuscular coherence
  • Hypoglossal motor nucleus
  • Phase locking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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