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J Affect Disord. 2019 Jul 30;258:125-132. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.07.066. [Epub ahead of print]

Unstable wakefulness during resting-state fMRI and its associations with network connectivity and affective psychopathology in young adults.

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University of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychiatry, Loeffler Building, Room 304, 121 Meyran Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA. Electronic address:
University of Pittsburgh, Department of Psychiatry, Loeffler Building, Room 304, 121 Meyran Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



Drifts between wakefulness and sleep are common during resting state functional MRI (rsfMRI). Among healthy adults, within-scanner sleep can impact functional connectivity of default mode (DMN), task-positive (TPN), and thalamo-cortical networks. Because dysfunctional arousal states (i.e., sleepiness, sleep disturbance) are common in affective disorders, individuals with affective psychopathology may be more prone to unstable wakefulness during rsfMRI, hampering the estimation of clinically meaningful functional connectivity biomarkers.


A transdiagnostic sample of 150 young adults (68 psychologically distressed; 82 psychiatrically healthy) completed rsfMRI and reported whether they experienced within-scanner sleep. Symptom scales were reduced into depression/anxiety and mania proneness dimensions using principal component analysis. We evaluated associations between within-scanner sleep, clinical status, and functional connectivity of the DMN, TPN, and thalamus.


Within-scanner sleep during rsfMRI was reported by 44% of participants (n = 66) but was unrelated to psychiatric diagnoses or mood symptom severity (p-values > 0.05). Across all participants, self-reported within-scanner sleep was associated with connectivity signatures akin to objectively-assessed sleep, including lower within-DMN connectivity, lower DMN-TPN anti-correlation, and altered thalamo-cortical connectivity (p < 0.05, corrected). Among participants reporting sustained wakefulness (n = 84), depression/anxiety severity positively associated with averaged DMN-TPN connectivity and mania proneness negatively associated with averaged thalamus-DMN connectivity (p-values < 0.05). Both relationships were attenuated and became non-significant when participants reporting within-scanner sleep were included (p-values > 0.05).


Subjective report of within-scanner sleep.


Findings implicate within-scanner sleep as a source of variance in network connectivity; careful monitoring and correction for within-scanner sleep may enhance our ability to characterize network signatures underlying affective psychopathology.


Affective disorders; Resting-state fMRI; Sleep


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