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Sci Adv. 2019 Feb 6;5(2):eaat7603. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat7603. eCollection 2019 Feb.

Human consciousness is supported by dynamic complex patterns of brain signal coordination.

Author information

1
GIGA-Consciousness, GIGA Institute B34, University of Liège, Avenue de l'Hôpital, 11, 4000 Sart Tilman, Belgium.
2
INSERM, U 1127, F-75013 Paris, France.
3
Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, 47 bd de l'Hôpital, 75013 Paris, France.
4
Instituto de Física de Buenos Aires and Physics Deparment (University of Buenos Aires), Buenos Aires, Argentina.
5
Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, CEA, INSERM, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Saclay, F-91191 Gif/Yvette, France.
6
Collège de France, 11, Place Marcelin Berthelot, 75005 Paris, France.
7
Center for Brain and Cognition, Computational Neuroscience Group, Department of Information and Communication Technologies, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Calle Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27, Barcelona 08005, Spain.
8
Institucio Catalana de la Recerca I Estudis Avancats (ICREA), University of Pompeu Fabra, Passeig Lluis Companys 23, Barcelona 08010, Spain.
9
Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience, Physics Department, FCEyN UBA and IFIBA, CONICET, Pabellón 1, Ciudad Universitaria, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina.
10
Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, Intendente Güiraldes 2160-Ciudad Universitaria-C1428EGA, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
11
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris 06, Faculté de Médecine Pitié-Salpêtrière, 91-105 bd de l'Hôpital, 75013 Paris, France.
12
CONICET-Universidad de Buenos Aires, Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Computación, Godoy Cruz 2290, C1425FQB Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
13
Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT Birmingham, UK.
14
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, Birmingham, UK.
15
The Brain and Mind Institute, Western Interdisciplinary Research Building, N6A 5B7 University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
16
Department of Neurology, Columbia University, 710 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032-3784, USA.
17
Radiology Department, Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, 516 E. 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021, USA.
18
Feil Family Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10065, USA.

Abstract

Adopting the framework of brain dynamics as a cornerstone of human consciousness, we determined whether dynamic signal coordination provides specific and generalizable patterns pertaining to conscious and unconscious states after brain damage. A dynamic pattern of coordinated and anticoordinated functional magnetic resonance imaging signals characterized healthy individuals and minimally conscious patients. The brains of unresponsive patients showed primarily a pattern of low interareal phase coherence mainly mediated by structural connectivity, and had smaller chances to transition between patterns. The complex pattern was further corroborated in patients with covert cognition, who could perform neuroimaging mental imagery tasks, validating this pattern's implication in consciousness. Anesthesia increased the probability of the less complex pattern to equal levels, validating its implication in unconsciousness. Our results establish that consciousness rests on the brain's ability to sustain rich brain dynamics and pave the way for determining specific and generalizable fingerprints of conscious and unconscious states.

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