Résumé : Rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) is associated with intense neuronal activity, rapid eye movements, muscular atonia and dreaming. Another important feature in REMS is the instability in autonomic, especially in cardiovascular regulation. The neural mechanisms underpinning the variability in heart rate (VHR) during REMS are not known in detail, especially in humans. During wakefulness, the right insula has frequently been reported as involved in cardiovascular regulation but this might not be the case during REMS. We aimed at characterizing the neural correlates of VHR during REMS as compared to wakefulness and to slow wave sleep (SWS), the other main component of human sleep, in normal young adults, based on the statistical analysis of a set of H(2)(15)O positron emission tomography (PET) sleep data acquired during SWS, REMS and wakefulness. The results showed that VHR correlated more tightly during REMS than during wakefulness with the rCBF in the right amygdaloid complex. Moreover, we assessed whether functional relationships between amygdala and any brain area changed depending the state of vigilance. Only the activity within in the insula was found to covary with the amygdala, significantly more tightly during wakefulness than during REMS in relation to the VHR. The functional connectivity between the amygdala and the insular cortex, two brain areas involved in cardiovascular regulation, differs significantly in REMS as compared to wakefulness. This suggests a functional reorganization of central cardiovascular regulation during REMS.