Brain network motifs are markers of loss and recovery of consciousness

Catherine Duclos, Danielle Nadin, Yacine Mahdid, Vijay Tarnal, Paul Picton, Giancarlo Vanini, Goodarz Golmirzaie, Ellen Janke, Michael S. Avidan, Max B. Kelz, George A. Mashour, Stefanie Blain-Moraes

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11 Scopus citations


Motifs are patterns of inter-connections between nodes of a network, and have been investigated as building blocks of directed networks. This study explored the re-organization of 3-node motifs during loss and recovery of consciousness. Nine healthy subjects underwent a 3-h anesthetic protocol while 128-channel electroencephalography (EEG) was recorded. In the alpha (8–13 Hz) band, 5-min epochs of EEG were extracted for: Baseline; Induction; Unconscious; 30-, 10- and 5-min pre-recovery of responsiveness; 30- and 180-min post-recovery of responsiveness. We constructed a functional brain network using the weighted and directed phase lag index, on which we calculated the frequency and topology of 3-node motifs. Three motifs (motifs 1, 2 and 5) were significantly present across participants and epochs, when compared to random networks (p < 0.05). The topology of motifs 1 and 5 changed significantly between responsive and unresponsive epochs (p-values < 0.01; Kendall’s W = 0.664 (motif 1) and 0.529 (motif 5)). Motif 1 was constituted of long-range chain-like connections, while motif 5 was constituted of short-range, loop-like connections. Our results suggest that anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is associated with a topological re-organization of network motifs. As motif topological re-organization may precede (motif 5) or accompany (motif 1) the return of responsiveness, motifs could contribute to the understanding of the neural correlates of consciousness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3892
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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