A fast and general method to empirically estimate the complexity of brain responses to transcranial and intracranial stimulations

Renzo Comolatti, Andrea Pigorini, Silvia Casarotto, Matteo Fecchio, Guilherme Faria, Simone Sarasso, Mario Rosanova, Olivia Gosseries, Mélanie Boly, Olivier Bodart, Didier Ledoux, Jean-François Brichant, Lino Nobili, Steven Laureys, Giulio Tononi, Marcello Massimini, Adenauer G Casali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The Perturbational Complexity Index (PCI) was recently introduced to assess the capacity of thalamocortical circuits to engage in complex patterns of causal interactions. While showing high accuracy in detecting consciousness in brain-injured patients, PCI depends on elaborate experimental setups and offline processing, and has restricted applicability to other types of brain signals beyond transcranial magnetic stimulation and high-density EEG (TMS/hd-EEG) recordings.

OBJECTIVE: We aim to address these limitations by introducing PCIST, a fast method for estimating perturbational complexity of any given brain response signal.

METHODS: PCIST is based on dimensionality reduction and state transitions (ST) quantification of evoked potentials. The index was validated on a large dataset of TMS/hd-EEG recordings obtained from 108 healthy subjects and 108 brain-injured patients, and tested on sparse intracranial recordings (SEEG) of 9 patients undergoing intracranial single-pulse electrical stimulation (SPES) during wakefulness and sleep.

RESULTS: When calculated on TMS/hd-EEG potentials, PCIST performed with the same accuracy as the original PCI, while improving on the previous method by being computed in less than a second and requiring a simpler set-up. In SPES/SEEG signals, the index was able to quantify a systematic reduction of intracranial complexity during sleep, confirming the occurrence of state-dependent changes in the effective connectivity of thalamocortical circuits, as originally assessed through TMS/hd-EEG.

CONCLUSIONS: PCIST represents a fundamental advancement towards the implementation of a reliable and fast clinical tool for the bedside assessment of consciousness as well as a general measure to explore the neuronal mechanisms of loss/recovery of brain complexity across scales and models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1280-1289
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 28 2019


  • Adult
  • Brain/physiology
  • Consciousness/physiology
  • Electroencephalography/methods
  • Empirical Research
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sleep/physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation/methods
  • Wakefulness/physiology


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