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Gastroenterology and Hepatology - Mental Health - Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Radiology and Medical Imaging

Selective Impairments of Resting-State Networks in Minimal Hepatic Encephalopathy
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Author: Rongfeng Qi et al.

by Rongfeng Qi, Long Jiang Zhang, Qiang Xu, Jianhui Zhong, Shengyong Wu, Zhiqiang Zhang, Wei Liao, Ling Ni, Zongjun Zhang, Huafu Chen, Yuan Zhong, Qing Jiao, Xingjiang Wu, Xinxin Fan, Yijun Liu, Guangming Lu


Minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) is a neuro-cognitive dysfunction characterized by impairment in attention, vigilance and integrative functions, while the sensorimotor function was often unaffected. Little is known, so far, about the exact neuro-pathophysiological mechanisms of aberrant cognition function in this disease.

Methodology/Principal Findings

To investigate how the brain function is changed in MHE, we applied a resting-state fMRI approach with independent component analysis (ICA) to assess the differences of resting-state networks (RSNs) between MHE patients and healthy controls. Fourteen MHE patients and 14 age-and sex-matched healthy subjects underwent resting-state fMRI scans. ICA was used to identify six RSNs [dorsal attention network (DAN), default mode network (DMN), visual network (VN), auditory network (AN), sensorimotor network (SMN), self-referential network (SRN)] in each subject. Group maps of each RSN were compared between the MHE and healthy control groups. Pearson correlation analysis was performed between the RSNs functional connectivity (FC) and venous blood ammonia levels, and neuropsychological tests scores for all patients. Compared with the healthy controls, MHE patients showed significantly decreased FC in DAN, both decreased and increased FC in DMN, AN and VN. No significant differences were found in SRN and SMN between two groups. A relationship between FC and blood ammonia levels/neuropsychological tests scores were found in specific regions of RSNs, including middle and medial frontal gyrus, inferior parietal lobule, as well as anterior and posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus.


MHE patients have selective impairments of RSNs intrinsic functional connectivity, with aberrant functional connectivity in DAN, DMN, VN, AN, and spared SMN and SRN. Our fMRI study might supply a novel way to understand the neuropathophysiological mechanism of cognition function changes in MHE.