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Healthy brain dynamics can be understood as the emergence of a complex system far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Brain dynamics are temporally irreversible and thus establish a preferred direction in time (i.e., arrow of time). However, little is known about how the time-reversal symmetry of spontaneous brain activity is affected by Alzheimer's disease (AD). We hypothesized that the level of irreversibility would be compromised in AD, signaling a fundamental shift in the collective properties of brain activity towards equilibrium dynamics. We investigated the irreversibility from resting-state fMRI and EEG data in male and female human patients with AD and elderly healthy control subjects (HC). We quantified the level of irreversibility and, thus, proximity to non-equilibrium dynamics by comparing forward and backward timeseries through time-shifted correlations. AD was associated with a breakdown of temporal irreversibility at the global, local, and network levels and at multiple oscillatory frequency bands. At the local level, temporoparietal and frontal regions were affected by AD. The limbic, frontoparietal, default mode, and salience networks were the most compromised at the network level. The temporal reversibility was associated with cognitive decline in AD and grey matter volume in HC. The irreversibility of brain dynamics provided higher accuracy and more distinctive information than classical neurocognitive measures when differentiating AD from controls. Findings were validated using an out-of-sample cohort. Present results offer new evidence regarding pathophysiological links between the entropy generation rate of brain dynamics and the clinical presentation of AD, opening new avenues for dementia characterization at different levels.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:By assessing the irreversibility of large-scale dynamics across multiple brain signals, we provide a precise signature capable of distinguishing Alzheimer's disease (AD) at the global, local, and network levels and different oscillatory regimes. Irreversibility of limbic, frontoparietal, default mode, and salience networks was the most compromised by AD in comparison to more sensory-motor networks. Moreover, the time-irreversibility properties associated with cognitive decline and atrophy outperformed and complemented classical neurocognitive markers of AD in predictive classification performance. Findings were generalized and replicated with an out-of-sample validation procedure. We provide novel multilevel evidence of reduced irreversibility in AD brain dynamics that have the potential to open new avenues for understating neurodegeneration in terms of the temporal asymmetry of brain dynamics.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

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