Frontal Networks Associated With Command Following After Hemorrhagic Stroke

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Abstract

Background and Purpose—

Level of consciousness is frequently assessed by command-following ability in the clinical setting. However, it is unclear what brain circuits are needed to follow commands. We sought to determine what networks differentiate command following from noncommand following patients after hemorrhagic stroke.

Methods—

Structural MRI, resting-state functional MRI, and electroencephalography were performed on 25 awake and unresponsive patients with acute intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Structural injury was assessed via volumetric T1-weighted MRI analysis. Functional connectivity differences were analyzed against a template of standard resting-state networks. The default mode network (DMN) and the task-positive network were investigated using seed-based functional connectivity. Networks were interrogated by pairwise coherence of electroencephalograph leads in regions of interest defined by functional MRI.

Results—

Functional imaging of unresponsive patients identified significant differences in 6 of 16 standard resting-state networks. Significant voxels were found in premotor cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus, and supplementary motor area. Direct interrogation of the DMN and task-positive network revealed loss of connectivity between the DMN and the orbitofrontal cortex and new connections between the task-positive network and DMN. Coherence between electrodes corresponding to right executive network and visual networks was also decreased in unresponsive patients.

Conclusions—

Resting-state functional MRI and electroencephalography coherence data support a model in which multiple, chiefly frontal networks are required for command following. Loss of DMN anticorrelation with task-positive network may reflect a loss of inhibitory control of the DMN by motor-executive regions. Frontal networks should thus be a target for future investigations into the mechanism of responsiveness in the intensive care unit environment.

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