Recent blood oxygenation level dependent functional MRI (BOLD fMRI) studies of the human brain have shown that in the absence of external stimuli, activity persists in the form of distinct patterns of temporally correlated signal fluctuations. In this work, we investigated the spontaneous BOLD signal fluctuations during states of reduced consciousness such as drowsiness and sleep. For this purpose, we performed BOLD fMRI on normal subjects during varying levels of consciousness, from resting wakefulness to light (non-slow wave) sleep. Depth of sleep was determined based on concurrently acquired EEG data. During light sleep, significant increases in the fluctuation level of the BOLD signal were observed in several cortical areas, among which visual cortex was the most significant. Correlations among brain regions involved with the default-mode network persisted during light sleep. These results suggest that activity in areas such as the default-mode network and primary sensory cortex, as measured from BOLD fMRI fluctuations, does not require a level of consciousness typical of wakefulness.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.