Modulation of beta oscillations in the subthalamic area during action observation in Parkinson's disease

S. Marceglia, M. Fiorio, G. Foffani, S. Mrakic-Sposta, M. Tiriticco, M. Locatelli, E. Caputo, M. Tinazzi, A. Priori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mapping observed actions into the onlooker's motor system seems to provide the neurofunctional mechanisms for action understanding. Subthalamic nucleus (STN) local field potential (LFP) recordings in patients with movement disorders disclosed that network oscillations in the beta range are involved in conveying motor and non-motor information across the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loop. This evidence, together with the existence of connections between the STN and cortical areas active during observation of actions performed by other people, suggests that the STN oscillatory activity in specific frequency bands could encode not only motor information, but also information related to action observation. To test this hypothesis we directly recorded STN oscillations through electrodes for deep brain stimulation in patients with Parkinson's disease during observation of actions and of static objects. We found selective action-related oscillatory modulations in two functionally distinct beta bands: whereas low-beta oscillations (10-18 Hz) selectively desynchronized only during action-observation, high-beta oscillations (20-30 Hz) synchronized both during the observation of action and action-related objects. Low-beta modulations are therefore specific to action observation and high-beta modulations are related to the action scene. Our findings show that in the basal ganglia there are functional changes spreading to the action environment, probably presetting the motor system in relation to the motor context and suggesting that the dynamics of beta oscillations can contribute to action understanding mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1036
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 21 2009


  • action observation
  • action understanding
  • basal ganglia
  • local field potentials
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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