State dissociation, human behavior, and consciousness

Mark W. Mahowald, Michel A Cramer Bornemann, Carlos H. Schenck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Sleep is clearly not only a whole-brain or global phenomenon, but can also be a local phenomenon. This accounts for the fact that the primary states of being (wakefulness, NREM sleep, and REM sleep) are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and components of these states may appear in various combinations, with fascinating clinical consequences. Examples include: sleep inertia, narcolepsy, sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, REM sleep behavior disorder, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, out-of-body experiences, and reports of alien abduction. The incomplete declaration of state likewise has implications for consciousness - which also has fluid boundaries. Fluctuations in the degree of consciousness are likely explained by abnormalities of a "spatial and temporal binding rhythm" which normally results in a unified conscious experience. Dysfunctional binding may play a role in anesthetic states, autism, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative disorders. Further study of the broad spectrum of dissociated states of sleep and wakefulness that are closely linked with states of consciousness and unconsciousness by basic neuroscientists, clinicians, and members of the legal profession will provide scientific, clinical and therapeutic insights, with forensic implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2392-2402
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent topics in medicinal chemistry
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • Central pattern generators
  • Disorders of arousal
  • Hallucinations
  • Lucid dreaming
  • Narcolepsy
  • REM sleep behavior disorder
  • Sleep inertia
  • State dissociation

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