Surge of neurophysiological coupling and connectivity of gamma oscillations in the dying human brain

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 May 9;120(19):e2216268120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2216268120. Epub 2023 May 1.


The brain is assumed to be hypoactive during cardiac arrest. However, animal models of cardiac and respiratory arrest demonstrate a surge of gamma oscillations and functional connectivity. To investigate whether these preclinical findings translate to humans, we analyzed electroencephalogram and electrocardiogram signals in four comatose dying patients before and after the withdrawal of ventilatory support. Two of the four patients exhibited a rapid and marked surge of gamma power, surge of cross-frequency coupling of gamma waves with slower oscillations, and increased interhemispheric functional and directed connectivity in gamma bands. High-frequency oscillations paralleled the activation of beta/gamma cross-frequency coupling within the somatosensory cortices. Importantly, both patients displayed surges of functional and directed connectivity at multiple frequency bands within the posterior cortical "hot zone," a region postulated to be critical for conscious processing. This gamma activity was stimulated by global hypoxia and surged further as cardiac conditions deteriorated in the dying patients. These data demonstrate that the surge of gamma power and connectivity observed in animal models of cardiac arrest can be observed in select patients during the process of dying.

Keywords: cross-frequency coupling; directed connectivity; functional connectivity; gamma oscillations; global hypoxia.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Gamma Rays
  • Heart
  • Heart Arrest*
  • Humans