Specific and nonspecific thalamocortical functional connectivity in normal and vegetative states

Consciousness and Cognition 20 (2):257-268 (2011)
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Recent theoretical advances describing consciousness from information and integration have highlighted the unique role of the thalamocortical system in leading to integrated information and thus, consciousness. Here, we examined the differential distributions of specific and nonspecific thalamocortical functional connections using resting-state fMRI in a group of healthy subjects and vegetative-state patients. We found that both thalamic systems were widely distributed, but they exhibited different patterns. Nonspecific connections were preferentially associated with brain regions involved in higher-order cognitive processing, self-awareness and introspective mentalizing. In contrast, specific connections were prevalent in the ventral and posterior part of the prefrontal and precuneus, known involved in representing externally-directed attentions. Significant reductions of functional connectivity in both systems, especially the nonspecific system, were observed in VS. These data suggest that brain networks sustaining information and integration may be differentiated by the nature of their thalamic functional connectivity.



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