Neurocognitive impairment is present in cirrhosis and may be more severe in cirrhosis with the overt hepatic encephalopathy (OHE). Liver transplantation (LT) may reverse the impaired brain function. MRI of resting-state functional connectivity can help unravel the underlying mechanisms that lead to these cognitive deficits and recovery. Sixty-four cirrhotic patients (28 with OHE; 36 without) and 32 healthy controls were recruited for resting-state fMRI. The patients were scanned before and after LT. We evaluated pre- and postsurgical neurocognitive performance in cirrhotic patients using psychomotor tests, i.e. number connection test (NCT) and digit symbol test (DST). Network-based statistics found significant disrupted connectivity in both groups of cirrhosis with OHE and without compared to controls. However, the presurgical connectivity disruption in patients with OHE was included in a greater number of connections than those without (65 vs. 17). The decrease in FC for both OHE and non-OHE patient groups was reversed to the level of controls after LT. An additional hyperconnected network (i.e., higher than controls) was observed in OHE patients after LT (p=0.009). Regarding the neural-behavior relationship, the functional network that predicted cognitive performance in healthy individuals, showed no correlation in presurgical cirrhotic patients. Such an impaired neural-behavior relationship was re-established after LT for non-OHE patients but not for OHE. OHE patients displayed abnormal hyperconnectivity and persistently impaired neural-behavior relationship after LT. Our results suggest that patients with OHE may undergo a different trajectory of postsurgical neurofunctional recovery in comparison to those without, which needs further clarification in the future study.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience