Western University scientists are part of an international team of researchers shedding light into what the brain look like when we're unconscious.

Their work is helping to provide a greater understanding of brain activity, and could lead to improved diagnosis for people who have suffered a brain injury.

Dr. Andrea Soddu is a physicist at the Brain and Mind Institute at Western looking into what brains look like in a state of unconsciousness.

"Even when the brain is at rest, so it's not receiving any stimuli or is not involved in any task, there is still a lot of activity there," he says

To imagine the brain at rest think of a tennis player awaiting a serve. For maximum efficiency they're not standing still, they're constantly moving.

Soddu's work focuses on using functional magnetic resonance imaging as a tool to see activity while the brain is at rest.

"What it does is measures the changes in oxygen in the different parts of the brain," Soddu says.

MRI images are combined with other measures of consciousness such as glucose levels in the brain of someone with a profound injury and then that is compared to someone who is partially responsive and brain images of a healthy person.

Soddu adds "We really need to combine different approaches in order to come out with the diagnosis that's the most precise as possible."

And the results of the research could have profound implications in measuring states of consciousness.

"With this research we can build a really nice diagnostic tool to recognize different states of consciousness and to understand better the conditions that are necessary for conscious processes to happen," he says.

Future research willl look at how different regions in the brain are connected in a state of unconsciouness.

"What you want is to have these patients to come out, or at least to improve their condition," Soddu says.