Altered effective connectivity network of the basal ganglia in low-grade hepatic encephalopathy: a resting-state fMRI study with Granger causality analysis

Rongfeng Qi, Long Jiang Zhang, Jianhui Zhong, Zhiqiang Zhang, Ling Ni, Qing Jiao, Wei Liao, Gang Zheng, Guangming Lu
PloS One 2013, 8 (1): e53677

BACKGROUND: The basal ganglia often show abnormal metabolism and intracranial hemodynamics in cirrhotic patients with hepatic encephalopathy (HE). Little is known about how the basal ganglia affect other brain system and is affected by other brain regions in HE. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the effective connectivity network associated with the basal ganglia is disturbed in HE patients by using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI).

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Thirty five low-grade HE patients and thirty five age- and gender- matched healthy controls participated in the rs-fMRI scans. The effective connectivity networks associated with the globus pallidus, the primarily affected region within basal ganglia in HE, were characterized by using the Granger causality analysis and compared between HE patients and healthy controls. Pearson correlation analysis was performed between the abnormal effective connectivity and venous blood ammonia levels and neuropsychological performances of all HE patients. Compared with the healthy controls, patients with low-grade HE demonstrated mutually decreased influence between the globus pallidus and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), cuneus, bi-directionally increased influence between the globus pallidus and the precuneus, and either decreased or increased influence from and to the globus pallidus in many other frontal, temporal, parietal gyri, and cerebellum. Pearson correlation analyses revealed that the blood ammonia levels in HE patients negatively correlated with effective connectivity from the globus pallidus to ACC, and positively correlated with that from the globus pallidus to precuneus; and the number connectivity test scores in patients negatively correlated with the effective connectivity from the globus pallidus to ACC, and from superior frontal gyrus to globus pallidus.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Low-grade HE patients had disrupted effective connectivity network of basal ganglia. Our findings may help to understand the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying the HE.

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