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Automatic Networking: Brain systems charge up in unconscious monkeys

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7:54pm, May 1, 2007

Anesthetized monkeys may be dead to the world, but their brains remain surprisingly lively. Organized patterns of activity continually course through neural networks that during waking life control the animals' eye movements and other critical functions, a new brain-scan investigation finds.

Unconscious monkeys also display a type of spontaneous brain activity that until now had been observed only in people at rest, say neuroscientist Marcus E. Raichle of Washington University in St. Louis and his colleagues. Some researchers suspect that this so-called default network supports the capacity to imagine the future, daydream, and think about oneself and others (SN: 2/17/07, p. 104: Net Heads).

"These findings are consistent with the perspective that the [primate] brain is governed primarily by internal dynamics," the researchers conclude in the May 3 Nature. If they're correct, events external to the individual play only a supporting role

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