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The cortical hubs related to recovery of consciousness

By Hang Wu, Zengxin Qi, Jun Zhang, Changwei Wu, Xuehai Wu, Zirui Huang, Di Zang, Stuart Fogel, Sean Tanabe, Anthony G. Hudetz, Georg Northoff, Ying Mao, Pengmin Qin

Posted 26 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.25.441310

Background and Objectives: The neural mechanism that enables the recovery of consciousness in patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS) remains unclear. The aim of the current study is to characterize the cortical hub regions related to the recovery of consciousness in patients with UWS. Methods: Voxel-wise degree centrality analysis was adopted to identify the cortical hubs related to the recovery of consciousness, for which a total of 27 UWS patients were used, including 13 patients who emerged from UWS (UWS-E), and 14 patients who remained in UWS (UWS-R) at least three months after the experiment performance. Furthermore, other recoverable unconscious states including three independent deep sleep datasets (n = 12, 9, 9 respectively) and three independent anesthesia datasets (n = 27, 14, 6 respectively) were adopted as validation groups. Spatial similarity of the hub characteristic with the validation groups between the UWS-E and UWS-R was compared using the dice coefficient. Finally, with the cortical regions persistently shown as hubs across UWS-E and validation states, functional connectivity analysis was further performed to explore the connectivity patterns underlying the recovery of consciousness. Results: Four cortical hubs were identified with significantly higher degree centrality for UWS-E than UWS-R, including the anterior precuneus, left inferior parietal lobule, left inferior frontal gyrus, and left middle frontal gyrus, of which the degree centrality value also positively correlated with the patients' Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score. Furthermore, the anterior precuneus was found to show significantly higher similarity of hub characteristics as well as functional connectivity pattern between UWS-E and validation groups, compared with UWS-R. Discussion: The results suggest that the recovery of consciousness may be relevant to the integrity of cortical hubs, especially the anterior precuneus. The identified cortical hub regions could serve as potential targets for noninvasive stimulation aimed at promoting the patients' consciousness recovery.

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