Functional brain imaging of human sleep


P. Maquet Cyclotron Research Centre (B30), University of Liège Ð Sart Tilman, 4000 Liège, Belgium. Tel.: + 32 43 66 36 87; fax: + 32 43 66 29 46.


This paper presents an overview of the contribution of functional brain mapping to the study of human sleep. Early studies were essentially successful in describing the variations of the global level of cerebral metabolism. More recently, regional distribution of cerebral blood flow was reported. The results suggest that the permissive and executive processes of slow wave sleep and REM sleep are similar in humans and in animals. They also show cortical blood flow distributions specific to each sleep stage. The cellular mechanisms underlying the involvement of these cortical areas in sleep are not yet precisely known. They should be looked for by further investigations in animals. Future research in functional neuroimaging will attempt to explore functional and, hopefully, effective connectivity between cerebral areas involved in sleep processes. This final goal will probably require the co-registration of two or more brain imaging techniques to precisely describe the spatio-temporal course of neuronal interactions occurring during sleep.