Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Molecular and Functional Imaging, Department of Radiology, Zhongda Hospital, Medical School, Southeast University, Nanjing 210009, China.
Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to detect the alterations of spontaneous neuronal activity in various neuropsychiatric diseases, but rarely in low-grade hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a common neuropsychiatric complication of liver cirrhosis. We conducted a resting-state fMRI in 19 healthy controls, 18 cirrhotic patients without HE, and 22 cirrhotic patients with low-grade HE. The amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (ALFF) of fMRI signal was computed to measure the spontaneous neuronal activity. Several regions showing significant ALFF differences among three groups were the precuneus, occipital lobe, left frontal lobe and anterior/middle cingulate cortex, and left cerebellum posterior lobe. Compared to controls or patients without HE, patients with low-grade HE showed decreased ALFF in the precuneus and adjacent cuneus, visual cortex, and left cerebellum posterior lobe. Compared to controls, patients with low-grade HE showed higher ALFF in both cortical and subcortical regions, including the right middle cingulate gyrus, and left anterior/middle cingulate gyrus, inferior frontal gyrus, insula lobe, parahippocampal gyrus, middle temporal gyrus and lentiform nucleus; compared to patients without HE, patients with low-grade HE showed higher ALFF in the left medial frontal gyrus and anterior cingulate gyrus, bilateral superior frontal gyrus, and right middle frontal gyrus. Moreover, correlations between ALFF changes and poor neurocognitive performances were found in patients with low-grade HE. These results suggested the existence of aberrant brain activity at the baseline state in low-grade HE, which may be implicated in the neurological pathophysiology underlying HE.