Distributed harmonic patterns of structure-function dependence orchestrate human consciousness


Abstract A central question in neuroscience is how consciousness arises from the dynamic interplay of brain structure and function. Departing from the predominant location- centric view in neuroimaging, here we provide an alternative perspective on the neural signatures of human consciousness: one that is intrinsically centered on how the distributed network architecture of the human structural connectome shapes functional activation across scales. We decompose cortical dynamics of resting-state functional MRI into fundamental distributed patterns of structure- function association: the harmonic modes of the human structural connectome. We contrast wakefulness with a wide spectrum of states of consciousness, spanning chronic disorders of consciousness but also pharmacological perturbations of consciousness induced with the anaesthetic propofol and the psychoactive drugs ketamine and LSD. Decomposing this wide spectrum of states of consciousness in terms of “connectome harmonics” reveals a generalisable structure-function signature of loss of consciousness, whether due to anaesthesia or brain injury. A mirror-reverse of this harmonic signature characterises the altered state induced by LSD or ketamine, reflecting psychedelic-induced decoupling of brain function from structure. The topology and neuroanatomy of the human connectome are crucial for shaping the repertoire of connectome harmonics into a fine-tuned indicator of consciousness, correlating with physiological and subjective scores across datasets and capable of discriminating between behaviourally indistinguishable sub-categories of brain-injured patients, tracking the presence of covert consciousness. Overall, connectome harmonic decomposition identifies meaningful relationships between neurobiology, brain function, and conscious experience.