Altered resting state effective connectivity in long-standing vegetative state patients: An EEG study

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Objective: Recent evidence mainly based on hemodynamic measures suggests that the impairment of functional connections between different brain areas may help to clarify the neuronal dysfunction occurring in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC).The aim of this study was to evaluate effective EEG connectivity in a cohort of 18 patients in a chronic vegetative state (VS) observed years after the occurrence of hypoxic (eight) and traumatic or hemorrhagic brain insult. Methods: we analysed the EEG signals recorded under resting conditions using a frequency domain linear index of connectivity (partial directed coherence: PDC) estimated from a multivariate autoregressive model. The results were compared with those obtained in ten healthy controls. Results: Our findings indicated significant connectivity changes in EEG activities in delta and alpha bands. The VS patients showed a significant and widespread decrease in delta band connectivity, whereas the alpha activity was hyper-connected in the central and posterior cortical regions. Conclusion: These changes suggest the occurrence of severe circuitry derangements probably due to the loose control of the subcortical connections. The alpha hyper-synchronisation may be due to simplified networks mainly involving the short-range connections between intrinsically oscillatory cortical neurons that generate aberrant EEG alpha sources. This increased connectivity may be interpreted as a reduction in information capacity, implying an increasing prevalence of stereotypic activity patterns. Significance: Our observations suggest a remarkable rearrangement of connectivity in patients with long-standing VS. We hypothesize that in persistent VS, after a first period characterized by a breakdown of cortical connectivity, neurodegenerative processes, largely independent from the type of initial insult, lead to cortex de-afferentation and to a severe reduction of possible cortical activity patterns and states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-68
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


  • Disorders of consciousness
  • EEG
  • Effective connectivity
  • Partial directed coherence
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Sensory Systems


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