The study of the brain's dynamical activity is opening a window to help the clinical assessment of patients with disorders of consciousness. For example, glucose uptake and the dysfunctional spread of naturalistic and synthetic stimuli has proven useful to characterize hampered consciousness. However, understanding of the mechanisms behind loss of consciousness following brain injury is still missing. Here, we study the propagation of endogenous and in-silico exogenous perturbations in patients with disorders of consciousness, based upon directed and causal interactions estimated from resting-state fMRI data, fitted to a linear model of activity propagation. We found that patients with disorders of consciousness suffer decreased capacity for neural propagation and responsiveness to events, and that this can be related to severe reduction of glucose metabolism as measured with [18 F]FDG-PET. In particular, we show that loss of consciousness is related to the malfunctioning of two neural circuits: the posterior cortical regions failing to convey information, in conjunction with reduced broadcasting of information from subcortical, temporal, parietal and frontal regions. These results shed light on the mechanisms behind disorders of consciousness, triangulating network function with basic measures of brain integrity and behavior.
Keywords: broadcasting of information; disorders of consciousness; in-silico exogenous perturbations; integration of information.
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