Abstract: The ongoing stream of human consciousness relies on two distinct cortical systems, the default mode network and the dorsal attention network, which alternate their activity in an anticorrelated manner. We examined how the two systems are regulated in the conscious brain and how they are disrupted when consciousness is diminished. We provide evidence for a “temporal circuit” characterized by a set of trajectories along which dynamic brain activity occurs. We demonstrate that the transitions between default mode and dorsal attention networks are embedded in this temporal circuit, in which a balanced reciprocal accessibility of brain states is characteristic of consciousness. Conversely, isolation of the default mode and dorsal attention networks from the temporal circuit is associated with unresponsiveness of diverse etiologies. These findings advance the foundational understanding of the functional role of anticorrelated systems in consciousness.