Consciousness-specific dynamic interactions of brain integration and functional diversity
Abstract: Prominent theories of consciousness emphasise different aspects of neurobiology, such as the integration and diversity of information processing within the brain. Here, we combine graph theory and dynamic functional connectivity to compare resting-state functional MRI data from awake volunteers, propofol-anaesthetised volunteers, and patients with disorders of consciousness, in order to identify consciousness-specific patterns of brain function. We demonstrate that cortical networks are especially affected by loss of consciousness during temporal states of high integration, exhibiting reduced functional diversity and compromised informational capacity, whereas thalamo-cortical functional disconnections emerge during states of higher segregation. Spatially, posterior regions of the brain’s default mode network exhibit reductions in both functional diversity and integration with the rest of the brain during unconsciousness. These results show that human consciousness relies on spatio-temporal interactions between brain integration and functional diversity, whose breakdown may represent a generalisable biomarker of loss of consciousness, with potential relevance for clinical practice.