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J Neurosci. 2018 Feb 28;38(9):2304-2317. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2545-17.2018. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Timescales of Intrinsic BOLD Signal Dynamics and Functional Connectivity in Pharmacologic and Neuropathologic States of Unconsciousness.

Author information

1
Department of Anesthesiology and Center for Consciousness Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 and huangzu@umich.edu ahudetz@med.umich.edu.
2
Department of Radiology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226.
3
Department of Anesthesiology and Center for Consciousness Science, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 and.

Abstract

Environmental events are processed on multiple timescales via hierarchical organization of temporal receptive windows (TRWs) in the brain. The dependence of neural timescales and TRWs on altered states of consciousness is unclear. States of reduced consciousness are marked by a shift toward slowing of neural dynamics (<1 Hz) in EEG/ECoG signals. We hypothesize that such prolongation of intrinsic timescales are also seen in blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signals. To test this hypothesis, we measured the timescales of intrinsic BOLD signals using mean frequency (MF) and temporal autocorrelation (AC) in healthy volunteers (n = 23; male/female 14/9) during graded sedation with propofol. We further examined the relationship between the intrinsic timescales (local/voxel level) and its regional connectivity (across neighboring voxels; regional homogeneity, ReHo), global (whole-brain level) functional connectivity (GFC), and topographical similarity (Topo). Additional results were obtained from patients undergoing deep general anesthesia (n = 12; male/female: 5/7) and in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC) (n = 21; male/female: 14/7). We found that MF, AC, and ReHo increased, whereas GFC and Topo decreased, during propofol sedation. The local alterations occur before changes of distant connectivity. Conversely, all of these parameters decreased in deep anesthesia and in patients with DOC. We conclude that propofol synchronizes local neuronal interactions and prolongs the timescales of intrinsic BOLD signals. These effects may impede communication among distant brain regions. Furthermore, the intrinsic timescales exhibit distinct dynamic signatures in sedation, deep anesthesia, and DOC. These results improve our understanding of the neural mechanisms of unconsciousness in pharmacologic and neuropathologic states.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Information processing in the brain occurs through a hierarchy of temporal receptive windows (TRWs) in multiple timescales. Anesthetic drugs induce a reversible suppression of consciousness and thus offer a unique opportunity to investigate the state dependence of neural timescales. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that sedation with propofol is accompanied by the prolongation of the timescales of intrinsic BOLD signals presumably reflecting enlarged TRWs. We show that this is accomplished by an increase of local and regional signal synchronization, effects that may disrupt information exchange among distant brain regions. Furthermore, we show that the timescales of intrinsic BOLD signals exhibit distinct dynamic signatures in sedation, deep anesthesia, and disorders of consciousness.

KEYWORDS:

anesthesia; consciousness; fMRI; functional connectivity; propofol; temporal receptive window

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