Human consciousness is supported by dynamic complex patterns of brain signal coordination: distinct brain patterns sustain conscious states

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Athena Demertzi
  • Enzo Tagliazucchi
  • Stanislas Dehaene
  • Gustavo Deco
  • Pablo Barttfeld
  • Federico Raimondo
  • Charlotte Martial
  • Benjamin Rohaut
  • Henning Voss
  • Nicholas Schiff
  • Adrian Owen
  • Steven Laureys
  • Lionel Naccache
  • Jacobo Sitt


Adopting the framework of brain dynamics as a cornerstone of human consciousness, we determined whether dynamic signal coordination provides specific and generalizable patterns pertaining to conscious and unconscious states after brain damage. A dynamic pattern of coordinated and anticoordinated functional magnetic resonance imaging signals characterized healthy individuals and minimally conscious patients. The brains of unresponsive patients showed primarily a pattern of low interareal phase coherence mainly mediated by structural connectivity, and had smaller chances to transition between patterns. The complex pattern was further corroborated in patients with covert cognition, who could perform neuroimaging mental imagery tasks, validating this pattern’s implication in consciousness. Anesthesia increased the probability of the less complex pattern to equal levels, validating its implication in unconsciousness. Our results establish that consciousness rests on the brain’s ability to sustain rich brain dynamics and pave the way for determining specific and generalizable fingerprints of conscious and unconscious states.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbereaat7603
Number of pages11
JournalScience Advances
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2019