Study offers a clearer picture of brain at rest

February 7, 2014 by Paul Mayne

(Medical Xpress)—New research from Western into the resting state of the brain could lead to better treatment for patients suffering from head injuries.

Led by Physics and Astronomy professor Andrea Soddu, in collaboration with The University of Liège in Belgium and Central University Colombia, the new strategy offers a fresh approach to forecasting consciousness conditions in an individual's . The findings were published recently in Cortex, an international journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behaviour.

While the brain is always active, Soddu's research into spontaneous brain activity, utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, looks at a patient studied for a period of approximately 10-15 minutes with the absence of outside stimuli.

"There is no participation in the fMRI scanner, such as counting or any , so measurements are not biased by the participants," said Soddu, a principal investigator at Western's Brain and Mind Institute.

Should a patient suffer serious head trauma, having this clearer picture of the brain at rest will more accurately detect differences in the .

While the ability for every patient to have his or her own personal study is not logistically possible, the creation of a common network, based on age and sex, can be of tremendous assistance in determining a patients state of consciousness, Soddu said.

"By being able to recognize the networks of (brain) activity in a state of rest, should you suffer a brain injury, these regions can be partially or completely destroyed," he said. "The first thing a patient would have is an MRI, and you'd see right away where the damage is, so you can expect functionality to be damaged or affected.

"But imagine if you had the spontaneous activity of everybody, and the moment something happens you could check where the changes are. In the brain, we know certain regions are connected. Using the fMRI as a clinical tool, we can see if these same regions are doing the same things at the same time functionally."

Classifying patients automatically based on fMRI resting state data is the first step toward single subject objective diagnostics, said Soddu, which he sees as imperative as the global medical community investigates the customization of health care.

Soddu said this new approach could even have clinical possibilities for patients suffering from brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Explore further: Has evolution given humans unique brain structures?

Related Stories

Has evolution given humans unique brain structures?

February 22, 2013

Humans have at least two functional networks in their cerebral cortex not found in rhesus monkeys. This means that new brain networks were likely added in the course of evolution from primate ancestor to human. These findings, ...

Real-time brain feedback can help people overcome anxiety

May 9, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—People provided with a real-time readout of activity in specific regions of their brains can learn to control that activity and lessen their anxiety, according to new findings published online in the journal ...

Do patients in a vegetative state recognize loved ones?

December 16, 2013

Patients in a vegetative state are awake, breathe on their own, and seem to go in and out of sleep. But they do not respond to what is happening around them and exhibit no signs of conscious awareness. With communication ...

Recommended for you

New mechanism discovered behind infant epilepsy

September 3, 2015

Scientists at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden have discovered a new explanation for severe early infant epilepsy. Mutations in the gene encoding the protein KCC2 can cause the disease, hereby ...

Neuron responsible for alcoholism found

September 2, 2015

Scientists have pinpointed a population of neurons in the brain that influences whether one drink leads to two, which could ultimately lead to a cure for alcoholism and other addictions.

Scientists see motor neurons 'walking' in real time

September 2, 2015

When you're taking a walk around the block, your body is mostly on autopilot—you don't have to consciously think about alternating which leg you step with or which muscles it takes to lift a foot and put it back down. That's ...

Deciphering the olfactory receptor code

August 31, 2015

In animals, numerous behaviors are governed by the olfactory perception of their surrounding world. Whether originating in the nose of a mammal or the antennas of an insect, perception results from the combined activation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.