Critical dynamics are thought to play an important role in neuronal information-processing: near critical networks exhibit neuronal avalanches, cascades of spatiotemporal activity that are scale-free, and are considered to enhance information capacity and transfer. However, the exact relationship between criticality, awareness, and information integration remains unclear. To characterize this relationship, we applied multi-scale avalanche analysis to voltage-sensitive dye imaging data collected from animals of various species under different anesthetics. We found that anesthesia systematically varied the scaling behavior of neural dynamics, a change that was mirrored in reduced neural complexity. These findings were corroborated by applying the same analyses to a biophysically realistic cortical network model, in which multi-scale criticality measures were associated with network properties and the capacity for information integration. Our results imply that multi-scale criticality measures are potential biomarkers for assessing the level of consciousness.
Year of publication
NeuroImage, Volume 183, Pages 919-933