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. 2018 Apr;96(4):671-687.
doi: 10.1002/jnr.24115. Epub 2017 Aug 12.

Restoration of Thalamo-Cortical Connectivity After Brain Injury: Recovery of Consciousness, Complex Behavior, or Passage of Time?

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Restoration of Thalamo-Cortical Connectivity After Brain Injury: Recovery of Consciousness, Complex Behavior, or Passage of Time?

Julia S Crone et al. J Neurosci Res. .

Abstract

In 2000, a landmark case report described the concurrent restoration of consciousness and thalamo-frontal connectivity after severe brain injury (Laureys et al., ). Being a single case however, this study could not disambiguate whether the result was specific to the restoration of consciousness per se as opposed to the return of complex cognitive function in general or simply the temporal evolution of post-injury pathophysiological events. To test whether the restoration of thalamo-cortical connectivity is specific to consciousness, 20 moderate-to-severe brain injury patients (from a recruited sample of 42) underwent resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging within a week after injury and again six months later. As described in the single case report, we find thalamo-frontal connectivity to be increased at the chronic, compared with the acute, time-point. The increased connectivity was independent of whether patients had already recovered consciousness prior to the first assessment or whether they recovered consciousness in-between the two. Conversely, we did find an association between restoration of thalamo-frontal connectivity and the return of complex cognitive function. While we did replicate the findings of Laureys et al. (), our data suggests that the restoration of thalamo-frontal connectivity is not as tightly linked to the reemergence of consciousness per se. However, the degree to which the return of connectivity is linked to the return of complex cognitive function, or to the evolution of other time-dependent post-injury mechanisms, remains to be understood.

Keywords: brain injury; coma; disorders of consciousness; large-scale network connectivity; thalamus.

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