Multimodal neuroimaging investigations of alterations to consciousness: The relationship between absence epilepsy and sleep

Andrew Bagshaw, David Rollings, Sakhvinder Khalsa, Andrea Cavanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


The link between epilepsy and sleep is well established on many levels. The focus of the current review is on recent neuroimaging investigations into the alterations of consciousness that are observed during absence seizures and the descent into sleep. Functional neuroimaging provides simultaneous cortical and subcortical recording of activity throughout the brain, allowing a detailed definition and characterization of large-scale brain networks and the interactions between them. This has led to the identification of a set of regions which collectively form the consciousness system, which includes contributions from the default mode network (DMN), ascending arousal systems, and the thalamus. Electrophysiological and neuroimaging investigations have also clearly demonstrated the importance of thalamocortical and corticothalamic networks in the evolution of sleep and absence epilepsy, two phenomena in which the subject experiences an alteration to the conscious state and a disconnection from external input. However, the precise relationship between the consciousness system, thalamocortical networks, and consciousness itself remains to be clarified. One of the fundamental challenges is to understand how distributed brain networks coordinate their activity in order to maintain and implement complex behaviors such as consciousness and how modifications to this network activity lead to alterations in consciousness. By taking into account not only the level of activation of individual brain regions but also their connectivity within specific networks and the activity and connectivity of other relevant networks, a more specific quantification of brain states can be achieved. This, in turn, may provide a more fundamental understanding of the alterations to consciousness experienced in sleep and epilepsy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-37
Number of pages5
JournalEpilepsy & Behavior
Early online date17 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014


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