Dynamic Patterns of Global Brain Communication Differentiate Conscious From Unconscious Patients After Severe Brain Injury

Daniel Golkowski, Rebecca Willnecker, Jennifer Rösler, Andreas Ranft, Gerhard Schneider, Denis Jordan, Rüdiger Ilg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

The neurophysiology of the subjective sensation of being conscious is elusive; therefore, it remains controversial how consciousness can be recognized in patients who are not responsive but seemingly awake. During general anesthesia, a model for the transition between consciousness and unconsciousness, specific covariance matrices between the activity of brain regions that we call patterns of global brain communication reliably disappear when people lose consciousness. This functional magnetic imaging study investigates how patterns of global brain communication relate to consciousness and unconsciousness in a heterogeneous sample during general anesthesia and after brain injury. First, we describe specific patterns of global brain communication during wakefulness that disappear during propofol (n = 11) and sevoflurane (n = 14) general anesthesia. Second, we search for these patterns in a cohort of unresponsive wakeful patients (n = 18) and unmatched healthy controls (n = 20) in order to evaluate their potential use in clinical practice. We found that patterns of global brain communication characterized by high covariance in sensory and motor areas or low overall covariance and their dynamic change were strictly associated with intact consciousness in this cohort. In addition, we show that the occurrence of these two patterns is significantly related to activity within the frontoparietal network of the brain, a network known to play a crucial role in conscious perception. We propose that this approach potentially recognizes consciousness in the clinical routine setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number625919
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - 9 Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • anesthesia
  • brain injury
  • coma
  • consciousness
  • fMRI
  • propofol
  • sevoflurane
  • unresponsive wakefulness syndrome

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