Rapid eye movement sleep patterns of brain activation and deactivation occur within unique functional networks

Hum Brain Mapp. 2020 Oct 1;41(14):3984-3992. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25102. Epub 2020 Jun 23.


Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a paradoxical state where the individual appears asleep while the electroencephalogram pattern resembles that of wakefulness. Regional differences in brain metabolism have been observed during REM sleep compared to wakefulness, but it is not known whether the spatial distribution of metabolic differences corresponds to known functional networks in the brain. Here, we use a combination of techniques to evaluate the networks associated with sites of REM sleep activation and deactivation from previously published positron emission tomography studies. We use seed-based functional connectivity from healthy adults acquired during quiet rest to show that REM-activation regions are functionally connected in a network that includes retrosplenial cingulate cortex, parahippocampal gyrus, and extrastriate visual cortices, corresponding to components of the default mode network and visual networks. Regions deactivated during REM sleep localize to right-lateralized fronto-parietal and salience networks. A negatively correlated relationship was observed between REM-activation and deactivation networks. Together, these findings show that regional activation and deactivation patterns of REM sleep tend to occur in distinct functional connectivity networks that are present during wakefulness, providing insights regarding the differential contributions of brain regions to the distinct subjective experiences that occur during REM sleep (dreaming) relative to wakefulness.

Keywords: REM sleep; brain networks; fMRI; functional connectivity; magnetic resonance imaging; paradoxical sleep.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Connectome*
  • Default Mode Network / diagnostic imaging
  • Default Mode Network / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*