Multiplex and Multilayer Network EEG Analyses: A Novel Strategy in the Differential Diagnosis of Patients with Chronic Disorders of Consciousness

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The deterioration of specific topological network measures that quantify different features of whole-brain functional network organization can be considered a marker for awareness impairment. Such topological measures reflect the functional interactions of multiple brain structures, which support the integration of different sensorimotor information subtending awareness. However, conventional, single-layer, graph theoretical analysis (GTA)-based approaches cannot always reliably differentiate patients with Disorders of Consciousness (DoC). Using multiplex and multilayer network analyses of frequency-specific and area-specific networks, we investigated functional connectivity during resting-state EEG in 17 patients with Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (UWS) and 15 with Minimally Conscious State (MCS). Multiplex and multilayer network metrics indicated the deterioration and heterogeneity of functional networks and, particularly, the frontal-parietal (FP), as the discriminant between patients with MCS and UWS. These data were not appreciable when considering each individual frequency-specific network. The distinctive properties of multiplex/multilayer network metrics and individual frequency-specific network metrics further suggest the value of integrating the networks as opposed to analyzing frequency-specific network metrics one at a time. The hub vulnerability of these regions was positively correlated with the behavioral responsiveness, thus strengthening the clinically-based differential diagnosis. Therefore, it may be beneficial to adopt both multiplex and multilayer network analyses when expanding the conventional GTA-based analyses in the differential diagnosis of patients with DoC. Multiplex analysis differentiated patients at a group level, whereas the multilayer analysis offered complementary information to differentiate patients with DoC individually. Although further studies are necessary to confirm our preliminary findings, these results contribute to the issue of DoC differential diagnosis and may help in guiding patient-tailored management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2050052
JournalInternational Journal of Neural Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • awareness
  • disorders of consciousness (DoC) unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS)
  • DoC differential diagnosis
  • graph theoretical analysis
  • minimally conscious state (MCS)
  • multilayer analysis
  • Multiplex analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications


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