[en] Changes in conscious level have been associated with changes in dynamical integration and segregation among distributed brain regions. Recent theoretical developments emphasize changes in directed functional (i.e., causal) connectivity as reflected in quantities such as ‘integrated information’ and ‘causal density’. Here we develop and illustrate a rigorous methodology for assessing causal connectivity from electroencephalographic (EEG) signals using Granger causality (GC). Our method addresses the challenges of non-stationarity and bias by dividing data into short segments and applying permutation analysis. We apply the method to EEG data obtained from subjects undergoing propofol-induced anaesthesia, with signals source-localized to the anterior and posterior cingulate cortices. We found significant increases in bidirectional GC in most subjects during loss-of-consciousness, especially in the beta and gamma frequency ranges. Corroborating a previous analysis we also found increases in synchrony in these ranges; importantly, the Granger causality analysis showed higher inter-subject consistency than the synchrony analysis. Finally, we validate our method using simulated data generated from a model for which GC values can be analytically derived. In summary, our findings advance the methodology of Granger causality analysis of EEG data and carry implications for integrated information and causal density theories of consciousness.
AKS and ABB are supported by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Leadership Fellowship EP/G007543/1. Support is also gratefully acknowledged from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. SL is a Belgian Funds for Scientific Research (FRS) Senior Research Associate and MAB, QN and MB are FRS Postdoctoral Researchers. This work was also supported by the European Commission (DECODER), Fondazione Europea di Ricerca Biomedica, McDonnell Foundation, Mind Science Foundation, Public Utility Foundation “Université Européenne du Travail” and the University of Liège. Possible inaccuracies of information are the responsibility of the project team. The text reflects solely the views of its authors. The European Commission is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.