Evidence from functional neuroimaging studies on resting state suggests that there are two distinct anticorrelated cortical systems that mediate conscious awareness: an “extrinsic” system that encompasses lateral fronto-parietal areas and has been linked with processes of external input (external awareness), and an “intrinsic” system which encompasses mainly medial brain areas and has been associated with internal processes (internal awareness). The aim of our study was to explore the neural correlates of resting state by providing behavioral and neuroimaging data from healthy volunteers. With no a priori assumptions, we first determined behaviorally the relationship between external and internal awareness in 31 subjects. We found a significant anticorrelation between external and internal awareness with a mean switching frequency of 0.05 Hz (range: 0.01–0.1 Hz). Interestingly, this frequency is similar to BOLD fMRI slow oscillations. We then evaluated 22 healthy volunteers in an fMRI paradigm looking for brain areas where BOLD activity correlated with “internal” and “external” scores. Activation of precuneus/posterior cingulate, anterior cingulate/mesiofrontal cortices, and parahippocampal areas (“intrinsic system”) was linearly linked to intensity of internal awareness, whereas activation of lateral fronto-parietal cortices (“extrinsic system”) was linearly associated with intensity of external awareness.

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