Estimating the integrated information measure phi from high-density electroencephalography during states of consciousness in humans

ReCCognition Study Group

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32 Scopus citations


The integrated information theory (IIT) proposes a quantitative measure, denoted as Φ, of the amount of integrated information in a physical system, which is postulated to have an identity relationship with consciousness. IIT predicts that the value of Φ estimated from brain activities represents the level of consciousness across phylogeny and functional states. Practical limitations, such as the explosive computational demands required to estimate Φ for real systems, have hindered its application to the brain and raised questions about the utility of IIT in general. To achieve practical relevance for studying the human brain, it will be beneficial to establish the reliable estimation of Φ from multichannel electroencephalogram (EEG) and define the relationship of Φ to EEG properties conventionally used to define states of consciousness. In this study, we introduce a practical method to estimate Φ from high-density (128-channel) EEG and determine the contribution of each channel to Φ. We examine the correlation of power, frequency, functional connectivity, and modularity of EEG with regional Φ in various states of consciousness as modulated by diverse anesthetics. We find that our approximation of Φ alone is insufficient to discriminate certain states of anesthesia. However, a multi-dimensional parameter space extended by four parameters related to Φ and EEG connectivity is able to differentiate all states of consciousness. The association of Φ with EEG connectivity during clinically defined anesthetic states represents a new practical approach to the application of IIT, which may be used to characterize various physiological (sleep), pharmacological (anesthesia), and pathological (coma) states of consciousness in the human brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number42
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - Feb 16 2018


  • Anesthesia
  • Consciousness
  • Electroencephalography
  • Functional connectivity
  • Human
  • Integrated information theory
  • Φ


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