Loss of consciousness (LOC) is a dramatic clinical manifestation of temporal lobe seizures. Its underlying mechanism could involve altered coordinated neuronal activity between the brain regions that support conscious information processing. The consciousness access hypothesis assumes the existence of a global workspace in which information becomes available via synchronized activity within neuronal modules, often widely distributed throughout the brain. Re-entry loops and, in particular, thalamo-cortical communication would be crucial to functionally bind different modules together. In the present investigation, we used intracranial recordings of cortical and subcortical structures in 12 patients, with intractable temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), as part of their presurgical evaluation to investigate the relationship between states of consciousness and neuronal activity within the brain. The synchronization of electroencephalography signals between distant regions was estimated as a function of time by using non-linear regression analysis. We report that LOC occurring during temporal lobe seizures is characterized by increased long-distance synchronization between structures that are critical in processing awareness, including thalamus (Th) and parietal cortices. The degree of LOC was found to correlate with the amount of synchronization in thalamo-cortical systems. We suggest that excessive synchronization overloads the structures involved in consciousness processing, preventing them from treating incoming information, thus resulting in LOC.
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