Anterior precuneus related to the recovery of consciousness

Hang Wu, Zengxin Qi, Xuehai Wu, Jun Zhang, Changwei Wu, Zirui Huang, Di Zang, Stuart Fogel, Sean Tanabe, Anthony G. Hudetz, Georg Northoff, Ying Mao, Pengmin Qin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The neural mechanism that enables the recovery of consciousness in patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome (UWS) remains unclear. The aim of the current study is to characterize the cortical hub regions related to the recovery of consciousness. In the current fMRI study, voxel-wise degree centrality analysis was adopted to identify the cortical hubs related to the recovery of consciousness, for which a total of 27 UWS patients were recruited, including 13 patients who emerged from UWS (UWS-E), and 14 patients who remained in UWS (UWS-R) at least three months after the experiment performance. Furthermore, other recoverable unconscious states were adopted as validation groups, including three independent N3 sleep datasets (n = 12, 9, 9 respectively) and three independent anesthesia datasets (n = 27, 14, 6 respectively). Spatial similarity of the hub characteristic with the validation groups between the UWS-E and UWS-R was compared using the dice coefficient. Finally, with the cortical regions persistently shown as hubs across UWS-E and validation states, functional connectivity analysis was further performed to explore the connectivity patterns underlying the recovery of consciousness. The results identified four cortical hubs in the UWS-E, which showed significantly higher degree centrality for UWS-E than UWS-R, including the anterior precuneus, left inferior parietal lobule, left inferior frontal gyrus, and left middle frontal gyrus, of which the degree centrality value also positively correlated with the patients’ Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score that assessed global brain functioning outcome after a brain injury. Furthermore, the anterior precuneus was found with significantly higher similarity of hub characteristics as well as functional connectivity patterns between UWS-E and the validation groups. The results suggest that the recovery of consciousness may be relevant to the integrity of cortical hubs in the recoverable unconscious states, especially the anterior precuneus. The identified cortical hub regions could serve as potential treatment targets for patients with UWS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102951
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Anesthesia
  • Anterior precuneus
  • Degree centrality
  • N3 sleep
  • Recovery of consciousness
  • Unresponsive wakefulness syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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