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A central question in neuroscience is how consciousness arises from the dynamic interplay of brain structure and function. Here we decompose functional MRI signals from pathological and pharmacologically-induced perturbations of consciousness into distributed patterns of structure-function dependence across scales: the harmonic modes of the human structural connectome. We show that structure-function coupling is a generalisable indicator of consciousness that is under bi-directional neuromodulatory control. We find increased structure-function coupling across scales during loss of consciousness, whether due to anaesthesia or brain injury, capable of discriminating between behaviourally indistinguishable sub-categories of brain-injured patients, tracking the presence of covert consciousness. The opposite harmonic signature characterises the altered state induced by LSD or ketamine, reflecting psychedelic-induced decoupling of brain function from structure and correlating with physiological and subjective scores. Overall, connectome harmonic decomposition reveals how neuromodulation and the network architecture of the human connectome jointly shape consciousness and distributed functional activation across scales.

Original publication




Journal article


Communications biology

Publication Date





Division of Anaesthesia, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 0QQ, UK.