The richness of conscious experience is thought to scale with the size of the repertoire of causal brain states, and it may be diminished in anesthesia. We estimated the state repertoire from dynamic analysis of intrinsic functional brain networks in conscious sedated and unconscious anesthetized rats. Functional resonance images were obtained from 30-min whole-brain resting-state blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signals at propofol infusion rates of 20 and 40 mg/kg/h, intravenously. Dynamic brain networks were defined at the voxel level by sliding window analysis of regional homogeneity (ReHo) or coincident threshold crossings (CTC) of the BOLD signal acquired in nine sagittal slices. The state repertoire was characterized by the temporal variance of the number of voxels with significant ReHo or positive CTC. From low to high propofol dose, the temporal variances of ReHo and CTC were reduced by 78% ± 20% and 76%± 20%, respectively. Both baseline and propofol-induced reduction of CTC temporal variance increased from lateral to medial position. Group analysis showed a 20% reduction in the number of unique states at the higher propofol dose. Analysis of temporal variance in 12 anatomically defined regions of interest predicted that the largest changes occurred in visual cortex, parietal cortex, and caudate-putamen. The results suggest that the repertoire of large-scale brain states derived from the spatiotemporal dynamics of intrinsic networks is substantially reduced at an anesthetic dose associated with loss of consciousness.
Keywords: anesthesia; consciousness; default mode network; fMRI; functional connectivity.