Finding precise signatures of different brain states is a central, unsolved question in neuroscience. We reformulated the problem to quantify the 'inside out' balance of intrinsic and extrinsic brain dynamics in brain states. The difference in brain state can be described as differences in the detailed causal interactions found in the underlying intrinsic brain dynamics. We used a thermodynamics framework to quantify the breaking of the detailed balance captured by the level of asymmetry in temporal processing, i.e. the arrow of time. Specifically, the temporal asymmetry was computed by the time-shifted correlation matrices for the forward and reversed time series, reflecting the level of non-reversibility/non-equilibrium. We found precise, distinguishing signatures in terms of the reversibility and hierarchy of large-scale dynamics in three radically different brain states (awake, deep sleep and anaesthesia) in electrocorticography data from non-human primates. Significantly lower levels of reversibility were found in deep sleep and anaesthesia compared to wakefulness. Non-wakeful states also showed a flatter hierarchy, reflecting the diversity of the reversibility across the brain. Overall, this provides signatures of the breaking of detailed balance in different brain states, perhaps reflecting levels of conscious awareness.
© 2022. The Author(s).