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© 2019 The Authors People vary in their capacity to learn and retain new motor skills. Although the relationship between neuronal oscillations in the beta frequency range (15–30 Hz) and motor behaviour is well established, the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying individual differences in motor learning are incompletely understood. Here, we investigated the degree to which measures of resting and movement-related beta power from sensorimotor cortex account for inter-individual differences in motor learning behaviour in the young and elderly. Twenty young (18–30 years) and twenty elderly (62–77 years) healthy adults were trained on a novel wrist flexion/extension tracking task and subsequently retested at two different time points (45–60 min and 24 h after initial training). Scalp EEG was recorded during a separate simple motor task before each training and retest session. Although short-term motor learning was comparable between young and elderly individuals, there was considerable variability within groups with subsequent analysis aiming to find the predictors of this variability. As expected, performance during the training phase was the best predictor of performance at later time points. However, regression analysis revealed that movement-related beta activity significantly explained additional variance in individual performance levels 45–60 min, but not 24 h after initial training. In the context of disease, these findings suggest that measurements of beta-band activity may offer novel targets for therapeutic interventions designed to promote rehabilitative outcomes.
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