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Title: Whole-brain spatiotemporal characteristics of functional connectivity in transitions between wakefulness and sleep
Author: Stevner, Angus Bror Andersen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7231 763X
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis provides a novel dynamic large-scale network perspective on brain activity of human sleep based on the analysis of unique human neuroimaging data. Specifically, I provide new information based on integrating spatial and temporal aspects of brain activity both in the transitions between and during wakefulness and various stages of non-rapid-eye movement (NREM) sleep. This is achieved through investigations of inter-regional interactions, functional connectivity (FC), between activity timecourses throughout the brain. Overall, the presented findings provide new important whole-brain insights for our current understanding of sleep, and potentially also of sleep disorders and consciousness in general. In Chapter 2 I present a robust global increase in similarity between the structural connectivity (SC) and the FC in slow-wave sleep (SWS) in almost all of the participants of two independent fMRI datasets. This could point to a decreased state repertoire and more rigid brain dynamics during SWS. Chapter 2 further identifies the changes in FC strengths between wakefulness and individual stages of NREM sleep across the whole-brain fMRI network. I report connectivity in posterior parts of the brain as particularly strong during wakefulness, while connections between temporal and frontal cortices are increased in strength during N1 and N2 sleep. SWS is characterised by a global drop in FC. In Chapter 3 I take advantage of rare MEG recordings of NREM sleep to show, for the first time, the feasibility of constructing source-space FC networks of sleep using power envelope correlations. The increased temporal information of MEG signals allows me to identify the specific frequencies underlying the FC differences identified in Chapter 2 with fMRI. The beta band (16 – 30 Hz) thus stands out as important for the strong posterior connectivity of wakefulness, while a range of frequency bands from delta (0.25 – 4 Hz) to sigma (13 – 16 Hz) all appear to contribute to N2-specific FC increases. Consistent with the fMRI results, slow-wave sleep shows the lowest level of FC. Interestingly, however, the MEG signals suggest a fronto-temporal network of high connectivity in the alpha band, possibly reflecting memory processes. In Chapter 4 I expand the within-frequency FC analysis of Chapter 3 to explore potential cross-frequency interactions in the MEG FC networks. It is shown that N2 sleep involves an abundance of frequency cross-talk, while SWS includes very little. A multi-layer network approach shows that the gamma band (30 – 48 Hz) is particularly integrated in wakefulness. Chapter 5 addresses the identified MEG FC findings from the perspective of traditional spectral sleep staging. By correlating temporal changes in spectral power at the sensor level to fluctuations in average FC, a specific type of transient events is found to underlie the strong N2-specific coupling in static FC values. Lastly, in Chapter 6 I make the leap out of the constraints of traditional low-resolution sleep staging, and extract dynamic states of FC from fMRI timecourses in a completely unsupervised fashion. This provides a novel representation of whole-brain states of sleep and the dynamics governing them. I argue that data-driven approaches like this are necessary to fully characterise the spatiotemporal principles underlying wakefulness and sleep in the human brain.
Supervisor: Kringelbach, Morten L. ; Van Someren, Eus ; Woolrich, Mark Sponsor: Center of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience (CFIN) ; and MINDLab ; Aarhus University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Brain activity ; Sleep ; Functional connectivity ; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging ; Brain state transitions ; NREM sleep ; Magnetoencephalography ; Structural connectivity ; Brain networks