A global brain state underlies C. elegans sleep behavior
How the brain effectively switches between and maintains global states, such as sleep and wakefulness, is not yet understood. We used brainwide functional imaging at single-cell resolution to show that during the developmental stage of lethargus, the Caenorhabditis elegans brain is predisposed to global quiescence, characterized by systemic down-regulation of neuronal activity. Only a few specific neurons are exempt from this effect. In the absence of external arousing cues, this quiescent brain state arises by the convergence of neuronal activities toward a fixed-point attractor embedded in an otherwise dynamic neural state space. We observed efficient spontaneous and sensory-evoked exits from quiescence. Our data support the hypothesis that during global states such as sleep, neuronal networks are drawn to a baseline mode and can be effectively reactivated by signaling from arousing circuits.