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Reduced emergent character of neural dynamics in patients with a disrupted connectome.

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Luppi, Andrea I 
Mediano, Pedro AM 
Rosas, Fernando E 
Allanson, Judith 
Pickard, John D 


High-level brain functions are widely believed to emerge from the orchestrated activity of multiple neural systems. However, lacking a formal definition and practical quantification of emergence for experimental data, neuroscientists have been unable to empirically test this long-standing conjecture. Here we investigate this fundamental question by leveraging a recently proposed framework known as "Integrated Information Decomposition," which establishes a principled information-theoretic approach to operationalise and quantify emergence in dynamical systems - including the human brain. By analysing functional MRI data, our results show that the emergent and hierarchical character of neural dynamics is significantly diminished in chronically unresponsive patients suffering from severe brain injury. At a functional level, we demonstrate that emergence capacity is positively correlated with the extent of hierarchical organisation in brain activity. Furthermore, by combining computational approaches from network control theory and whole-brain biophysical modelling, we show that the reduced capacity for emergent and hierarchical dynamics in severely brain-injured patients can be mechanistically explained by disruptions in the patients' structural connectome. Overall, our results suggest that chronic unresponsiveness resulting from severe brain injury may be related to structural impairment of the fundamental neural infrastructures required for brain dynamics to support emergence.



Disorders of consciousness, Emergence, Hierarchy, Information decomposition, Network control theory, Whole-brain modelling, Humans, Connectome, Brain, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Nervous System Physiological Phenomena, Brain Injuries

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Elsevier BV
Medical Research Council (MR/M009041/1)
Wellcome Trust (210920/Z/18/Z)