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Dynamic functional network connectivity associated with post-traumatic stress symptoms in COVID-19 survivors

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Dynamic functional network connectivity associated with post-traumatic stress symptoms in COVID-19 survivors

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Abstract

Accumulating evidence shows that Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) survivors may encounter prolonged mental issues, especially post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Despite manifesting a plethora of behavioral or mental issues in COVID-19 survivors, previous studies illustrated that static brain functional networks of these survivors remain intact. The insignificant results could be due to the conventional statistic network analysis was unable to reveal information that can vary considerably in different temporal scales. In contrast, time-varying characteristics of the dynamic functional networks may help reveal important brain abnormalities in COVID-19 survivors. To test this hypothesis, we assessed PTSS and collected functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with COVID-19 survivors discharged from hospitals and matched controls. Results showed that COVID-19 survivors self-reported a significantly higher PTSS than controls. Tapping into the moment-to-moment variations of the fMRI data, we captured the dynamic functional network connectivity (dFNC) states, and three discriminative reoccurring brain dFNC states were identified. First of all, COVID-19 survivors showed an increased occurrence of a dFNC state with heterogeneous patterns between sensorimotor and visual networks. More importantly, the occurrence rate of this state was significantly correlated with the severity of PTSS. Finally, COVID-19 survivors demonstrated decreased topological organizations in this dFNC state than controls, including the node strength, degree, and local efficiency of the supplementary motor area. To conclude, our findings revealed the altered temporal characteristics of functional networks and their associations with PTSS due to COVID- 19. The current results highlight the importance of evaluating dynamic functional network changes with COVID-19 survivors.

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