Beta-band amplitude oscillations in the human internal globus pallidus support the encoding of sequence boundaries during initial sensorimotor sequence learning
Sequential behavior characterizes both simple everyday tasks, such as getting dressed, and complex skills, such as music performance. The basal ganglia (BG) play an important role in the learning of motor sequences. To study the contribution of the human BG to the initial encoding of sequence boundaries, we recorded local field potentials in the sensorimotor area of the internal globus pallidus (GPi) during the early acquisition of sensorimotor sequences in patients undergoing deep brain stimulation for dystonia. We demonstrated an anticipatory modulation of pallidal beta-band neuronal oscillations that was specific to sequence boundaries, as compared to within-sequence elements, and independent of both the movement parameters and the initiation/termination of ongoing movement. The modulation at sequence boundaries emerged with training, in parallel with skill learning, and correlated with the degree of long-range temporal correlations (LRTC) in the dynamics of ongoing beta-band amplitude oscillations. The implication is that LRTC of beta-band oscillations in the sensorimotor GPi might facilitate the emergence of beta power modulations by the sequence boundaries in parallel with sequence learning. Taken together, the results reveal the oscillatory mechanisms in the human BG that contribute at an initial learning phase to the hierarchical organization of sequential behavior as reflected in the formation of boundary-delimited representations of action sequences.