Local Orchestration of Global Functional Patterns Supporting Loss and Restoration of Consciousness in the Primate Brain


AbstractA central challenge of neuroscience is to elucidate how the orchestration of brain function is modulated by different states of consciousness. Here, we investigate the link between distributed structural and functional brain organisation in functional MRI signals of non-human primates, through bi-directional causal manipulations of consciousness. During varying levels of propofol, sevoflurane, or ketamine anaesthesia, and subsequent restoration of responsiveness by deep brain stimulation of the central thalamus, we investigate how loss of consciousness impacts distributed patterns of structure-function organisation across scales. Combining the specificity of electrical stimulation with global fMRI coverage of the entire cortex, we report that distributed brain activity under anaesthesia is increasingly constrained by brain structure across scales, coinciding with anaesthetic-induced collapse of multiple dimensions of hierarchical cortical organisation. Crucially, we show that these distributed signatures of anaesthetic-induced loss of consciousness are observed across different anaesthetics, and they are reversed by electrical stimulation of the central thalamus, coinciding with recovery of behavioural markers of consciousness during propofol anaesthesia. No such effects were observed upon stimulation of a control anatomical site, ventral lateral thalamus, demonstrating specificity. Through causal manipulations of consciousness that integrate pharmacology and electrical intracranial stimulation of the thalamus, our results identify global signatures of consciousness that are under local causal control by specific nuclei of the thalamus. Overall, the present work broadens our understanding of the link between brain network organisation and distributed function in supporting consciousness, and the interplay between local and global functional architecture.