The findings are recognized in numerous popular scientific new articles.
The study, led by neuroscientist Zirui Huang of the Center for Consciousness Science at the University of Michigan, suggests that the shifting balance between the Default Mode Network (DMN) and the Dorsal Attention network (DAT) of the brain may be a defining feature of consciousness.
Neuronal actitivity in the DMN is responsible for awareness of self whereas activity of the DAT is responsible for awareness of the environment. The two are in anticorrelation, meaning that they frequently alternate their engagement in overall brain activity. The participation of these networks is embedded in the transient activity of several other brain networks associated with other sensory, motor and cognitive functions. The dynamic transition among momentarily active networks is orderly and structured, which prompted the name “temporal circuit” in Huang’s paper.
Why the anticorrelated DMN and DAT are uniquely important to consciousness is evidenced by the brain activity maps obtained by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of healthy anesthetized subjects and patients with disorders of consciousness. The DMN and DAT networks of unconscious individuals are largely isolated from the rest of the networks; they are simply not as accessible as they are during wakeful consciousness. This conclusion is further supported by the finding that DMN and DAT remain accessible (and anticorrelated) in psychiatric patients who are nevertheless conscious.
The paper was published in Science Advances:
accompanied by reviews in popular scietific news media: