Delirium is a common and serious psychiatric syndrome caused by an underlying medical condition. It is associated with significant mortality and increased healthcare resource utilization. There are few biological markers of delirium, perhaps related to the etiologic heterogeneity of the syndrome. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is an optical topography system to measure changes in the concentration of oxygenated hemoglobin ([oxy-Hb]) in the cerebral cortex. We examined whether altered cortical brain activity in delirious patients with end stage liver disease (ESLD) is detected by fNIRS. We found that the [oxy-Hb] change during the verbal fluency task (VFT) was reduced in patients with ESLD compared with healthy controls (HC) in the prefrontal and bi-temporal regions. The [oxy-Hb] change during the sustained attention task (SAT) was elevated in patients with ESLD compared to HC in the prefrontal and left temporal regions. Notably, [oxy-Hb] change in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during SAT showed a positive correlation with the severity of delirium. Our results suggest that [oxy-Hb] change in the prefrontal cortex during the sustained attention task measured with fNIRS might serve as a biological marker associated with delirium in ESLD patients.
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