Cross-frequency cortex-muscle interactions are abnormal in young people with dystonia

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Sensory processing and sensorimotor integration are abnormal in dystonia, including impaired modulation of beta-corticomuscular coherence. However, cortex-muscle interactions in either direction are rarely described, with reports limited predominantly to investigation of linear coupling, using corticomuscular coherence or Granger causality. Information-theoretic tools such as transfer entropy detect both linear and non-linear interactions between processes. This observational case-control study applies transfer entropy to determine intra- and cross-frequency cortex-muscle coupling in young people with dystonia/dystonic cerebral palsy.
15 children with dystonia/dystonic cerebral palsy and 13 controls, aged 12-18 years, performed a grasp task with their dominant hand. Mechanical perturbations were provided by an electromechanical tapper. Bipolar scalp EEG over contralateral sensorimotor cortex and surface EMG over first dorsal interosseous were recorded. Multi-scale wavelet transfer entropy was applied to decompose signals into functional frequency bands of oscillatory activity and to quantify intra- and cross-frequency coupling between brain and muscle. Statistical significance against the null hypothesis of zero transfer entropy was established, setting individual 95% confidence thresholds. The proportion of individuals in each group showing significant transfer entropy for each frequency combination/direction was compared using Fisher’s exact test, correcting for multiple comparisons.
Intra-frequency transfer entropy was detected in all participants bidirectionally in the beta (16-32Hz) range and in most participants from EEG to EMG in the alpha (8-16Hz) range. Cross-frequency transfer entropy across multiple frequency bands was largely similar between groups, but a specific coupling from low-frequency EMG to beta-EEG was significantly reduced in dystonia (p = 0.0061 (corrected)).
The demonstration of bidirectional cortex-muscle communication in dystonia emphasises the value of transfer entropy for exploring neural communications in neurological disorders. The novel finding of diminished coupling from low-frequency-EMG to beta-EEG in dystonia suggests impaired cortical feedback of proprioceptive information with a specific frequency signature which could be relevant to the origin of the excessive low-frequency drive to muscle.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Communications
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 18 Jan 2024


  • Cross-frequency coupling
  • Sensorimotor processing
  • Neuronal oscillations
  • Spectral analysis
  • Multi-scale wavelet transfer entropy


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