Student Author(s)

Zhifeng Liang

Academic Program


UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Neuroscience and Neurobiology


The neural mechanism of unconsciousness has been a major unsolved question in neuroscience despite its vital role in brain states like coma and anesthesia. The existing literature suggests that neural connections, information integration, and conscious states are closely related. Indeed, alterations in several important neural circuitries and networks during unconscious conditions have been reported. However, how the whole-brain network is topologically reorganized to support different patterns of information transfer during unconscious states remains unknown. Here we directly compared whole-brain neural networks in awake and anesthetized states in rodents. Consistent with our previous report, the awake rat brain was organized in a nontrivial manner and conserved fundamental topological properties in a way similar to the human brain. Strikingly, these topological features were well maintained in the anesthetized brain. Local neural networks in the anesthetized brain were reorganized with altered local network properties. The connectional strength between brain regions was also considerably different between the awake and anesthetized conditions. Interestingly, we found that long-distance connections were not preferentially reduced in the anesthetized condition, arguing against the hypothesis that loss of long-distance connections is characteristic to unconsciousness. These findings collectively show that the integrity of the whole-brain network can be conserved between widely dissimilar physiologic states while local neural networks can flexibly adapt to new conditions. They also illustrate that the governing principles of intrinsic brain organization might represent fundamental characteristics of the healthy brain. With the unique spatial and temporal scales of resting-state fMRI, this study has opened a new avenue for understanding the neural mechanism of (un)consciousness.

Rights and Permissions

Publisher PDF posted as allowed by the publisher's author rights policy at Copyright of all material published in The Journal of Neuroscience remains with the authors. The authors grant the Society for Neuroscience an exclusive license to publish their work for the first 6 months. After 6 months the work becomes available to the public to copy, distribute, or display under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

DOI of Published Version



J Neurosci. 2012 Jul 25;32(30):10183-91. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1020-12.2012. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID