Oscillatory activity in the beta frequency range (15–30 Hz) recorded from human sensorimotor cortex is of increasing interest as a putative biomarker of motor system function and dysfunction. Despite its increasing use in basic and clinical research, surprisingly little is known about the test-retest reliability of spectral power and peak frequency measures of beta oscillatory signals from sensorimotor cortex. Establishing that these beta measures are stable over time in healthy populations is a necessary precursor to their use in the clinic.
Here, we used scalp electroencephalography (EEG) to evaluate intra-individual reliability of beta-band oscillations over six sessions, focusing on changes in beta activity during movement (Movement-Related Beta Desynchronization, MRBD) and after movement termination (Post-Movement Beta Rebound, PMBR). Subjects performed visually-cued unimanual wrist flexion and extension. We assessed Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICC) and between-session correlations for spectral power and peak frequency measures of movement-related and resting beta activity. Movement-related and resting beta power from both sensorimotor cortices was highly reliable across sessions. Resting beta power yielded highest reliability (average ICC=0.903), followed by MRBD (average ICC=0.886) and PMBR (average ICC=0.663). Notably, peak frequency measures yielded lower ICC values compared to the assessment of spectral power, particularly for movement-related beta activity (ICC=0.386–0.402). Our data highlight that power measures of movement-related beta oscillations are highly reliable, while corresponding peak frequency measures show greater intra-individual variability across sessions. Importantly, our finding that beta power estimates show high intra-individual reliability over time serves to validate the notion that these measures reflect meaningful individual differences that can be utilised in basic research and clinical studies.