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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 27;9(1):e87498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0087498. eCollection 2014.

Fronto-parietal connectivity is a non-static phenomenon with characteristic changes during unconsciousness.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Helios Clinic Wuppertal, Witten/Herdecke University, Wuppertal, Germany ; Department of Anesthesiology, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.
Department of Anesthesiology, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.
Department of Neurology, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.



It has been previously shown that loss of consciousness is associated with a breakdown of dominating fronto-parietal feedback connectivity as assessed by electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. Structure and strength of network connectivity may change over time. Aim of the current study is to investigate cortico-cortical connectivity at different time intervals during consciousness and unconsciousness. For this purpose, EEG symbolic transfer entropy (STEn) was calculated to indicate cortico-cortical information transfer at different transfer times.


The study was performed in 15 male volunteers. 29-channel EEG was recorded during consciousness and propofol-induced unconsciousness. EEG data were analyzed by STEn, which quantifies intensity and directionality of the mutual information flow between two EEG channels. STEn was computed over fronto-parietal channel pair combinations (10 s length, 0.5-45 Hz total bandwidth) to analyze changes of intercortical directional connectivity. Feedback (fronto → parietal) and feedforward (parieto → frontal) connectivity was calculated for transfer times from 25 ms to 250 ms in 5 ms steps. Transfer times leading to maximum directed interaction were identified to detect changes of cortical information transfer (directional connectivity) induced by unconsciousness (p<0.05).


The current analyses show that fronto-parietal connectivity is a non-static phenomenon. Maximum detected interaction occurs at decreased transfer times during propofol-induced unconsciousness (feedback interaction: 60 ms to 40 ms, p = 0.002; feedforward interaction: 65 ms to 45 ms, p = 0.001). Strength of maximum feedback interaction decreases during unconsciousness (p = 0.026), while no effect of propofol was observed on feedforward interaction. During both consciousness and unconsciousness, intensity of fronto-parietal interaction fluctuates with increasing transfer times.


Non-stationarity of directional connectivity may play a functional role for cortical network communication as it shows characteristic changes during propofol-induced unconsciousness.

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