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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 7;106(27):11376-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901435106. Epub 2009 Jun 19.

Decoupling of the brain's default mode network during deep sleep.

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  • 1Human Motor Control Section, Medical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The recent discovery of a circuit of brain regions that is highly active in the absence of overt behavior has led to a quest for revealing the possible function of this so-called default-mode network (DMN). A very recent study, finding similarities in awake humans and anesthetized primates, has suggested that DMN activity might not simply reflect ongoing conscious mentation but rather a more general form of network dynamics typical of complex systems. Here, by performing functional MRI in humans, it is shown that a natural, sleep-induced reduction of consciousness is reflected in altered correlation between DMN network components, most notably a reduced involvement of frontal cortex. This suggests that DMN may play an important role in the sustenance of conscious awareness.

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