A number of recent studies of human brain activity using blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI and EEG have reported the presence of spatiotemporal patterns of correlated activity in the absence of external stimuli. Although these patterns have been hypothesized to contain important information about brain architecture, little is known about their origin or about their relationship to active cognitive processes such as conscious awareness and monitoring of the environment. In this study, we have investigated the amplitude and spatiotemporal characteristics of resting-state activity patterns and their dependence on the subjects' alertness. For this purpose, BOLD fMRI was performed at 3.0 T on 12 normal subjects using a visual stimulation protocol, followed by a 27 min rest period, during which subjects were allowed to fall asleep. In subjects who were asleep at the end of the scan, we found (a) a higher amplitude of BOLD signal fluctuation during rest compared with subjects who were awake at the end of the scan; (b) spatially independent patterns of correlated activity that involve all of gray matter, including deep brain nuclei; (c) many patterns that were consistent across subjects; (d) that average percentage levels of fluctuation in visual cortex (VC) and whole brain were higher in subjects who were asleep (up to 1.71% and 1.16%, respectively) than in those who were awake (up to 1.15% and 0.96%) at the end of the scan and were comparable with those levels evoked by intense visual stimulation (up to 1.85% and 0.76% for two subject groups); (e) no confirmation of correlation, positive or negative, between thalamus and VC found in earlier studies. These findings suggest that resting-state activity continues during sleep and does not require active cognitive processes or conscious awareness.