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Neural entrainment underpins sensorimotor synchronization to dynamic rhythmic stimuli.

Neural entrainment underpins sensorimotor synchronization to dynamic rhythmic stimuli.

Rosso, M., Moens, B., Leman, M., & Moumdjian, L.

Neural entrainment, defined as unidirectional synchronization of neural oscillations to an external rhythmic stimulus, is a topic of major interest in the field of neuroscience. Despite broad scientific consensus on its existence, on its pivotal role in sensory and motor processes, and on its fundamental definition, empirical research struggles in quantifying it with non-invasive electrophysiology. To this date, broadly adopted state-of-the-art methods still fail to capture the dynamic underlying the phenomenon.

Here, we present event-related frequency adjustment (ERFA) as a methodological framework to induce and to measure neural entrainment in human participants, optimized for multivariate EEG datasets. By applying dynamic phase and tempo perturbations to isochronous auditory metronomes during a finger-tapping task, we analyzed adaptive changes in instantaneous frequency of entrained oscillatory components during error correction. Spatial filter design allowed us to untangle, from the multivariate EEG signal, perceptual and sensorimotor oscillatory components attuned to the stimulation frequency.

Both components dynamically adjusted their frequency in response to perturbations, tracking the stimulus dynamics by slowing down and speeding up the oscillation over time. Source separation revealed that sensorimotor processing enhanced the entrained response, supporting the notion that the active engagement of the motor system plays a critical role in processing rhythmic stimuli. In the case of phase shift, motor engagement was a necessary condition to observe any response, whereas sustained tempo changes induced frequency adjustment even in the perceptual oscillatory component. Although the magnitude of the perturbations was controlled across positive and negative direction, we observed a general bias in the frequency adjustments towards positive changes, which points at the effect of intrinsic dynamics constraining neural entrainment.

We conclude that our findings provide compelling evidence for neural entrainment as mechanism underlying overt sensorimotor synchronization, and highlight that our methodology offers a paradigm and a measure for quantifying its oscillatory dynamics by means of non-invasive electrophysiology, rigorously informed by the fundamental definition of entrainment.

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