To quantify whole‐brain functional organization after complete hemispherotomy, characterizing unexplored plasticity pathways and the conscious level of the dissected hemispheres.
Evaluation with multimodal magnetic resonance imaging in two pediatric patients undergoing right hemispherotomy including complete callosotomy with a perithalamic section. Regional cerebral blood flow and fMRI network connectivity assessed the functional integrity of both hemispheres after surgery. The level of consciousness was tested by means of a support vector machine classifier which compared the intrinsic organization of the dissected hemispheres with those of patients suffering from disorders of consciousness.
After hemispherotomy, both patients showed typical daily functionality. We found no interhemispheric transfer of functional connectivity in either patient as predicted by the operation. The healthy left hemispheres displayed focal blood hyperperfusion in motor and limbic areas, with preserved network‐level organization. Unexpectedly, the disconnected right hemispheres showed sustained network organization despite low regional cerebral blood flow. Subcortically, functional connectivity was increased in the left thalamo‐cortical loop and between the cerebelli. One patient further showed unusual ipsilateral right cerebello‐cortical connectivity, which was explained by the mediation of the vascular system. The healthy left hemisphere had higher probability to be classified as in a minimally conscious state compared to the isolated right hemisphere.
Complete hemispherotomy leads to a lateralized whole‐brain organization, with the remaining hemisphere claiming most of the brain's energetic reserves supported by subcortical structures. Our results further underline the contribution of nonneuronal vascular signals on contralateral connectivity, shedding light on the nature of network organization in the isolated tissue. The disconnected hemisphere is characterized by a level of consciousness which is necessary but insufficient for conscious processing, paving the way for more specific inquiries about its role in awareness in the absence of behavioral output.