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Direct recording shows brain signal persists even in dreamless sleep
Date:9/30/2008

many years exploring the upper levels of the brain's functional architecture. In these studies, researchers typically ask volunteers to perform specific mental tasks as their brains are scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Such "goal-oriented" tasks might include looking for or studying a visual stimulus, moving an arm or leg, reading a word or listening for a sound. As the subjects perform these tasks, the scans reveal increases in blood flow to different parts of the brain, which researchers take as indications that the brain areas are contributing to the mental task.

In the past decade, though, scientists have realized that deeper structures underlie goal-oriented mental processes. These underlying brain processes continue to occur even when subjects aren't consciously using their brain to do anything, and the energies that the brain puts into them seem to be much greater than those used for goal-oriented tasks.

"The brain consumes a tremendous amount of the body's energy resourcesit's only 2 percent of body weight, but it uses about 20 percent of the energy we take in," says Raichle. "When we started to ask where all those resources were being spent, we found that the goal-oriented tasks we had studied previously only accounted for a tiny portion of that energy budget. The rest appears to go into activities and processes that maintain a state of readiness in the brain."

To explore this deeper level of the brain's functional architecture, Raichle and others have been using fMRI to conduct detailed analyses of brain activity in subjects asked to do nothing. However, a nagging question has dogged those and other fMRI studies: Scientists assumed that increased blood flow to a part of the brain indicates that part has contributed to a mental task, but they wanted more direct evidence linking increased blood flow to stepped-up activity in brain cells.

In the new study, He and her colleagues took fMRI scans o
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@msnotes.wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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