Migraine patients find pain relief in electrical brain stimulation

By Laura Bailey

Chronic migraine sufferers saw significant pain relief after four weeks of electrical brain stimulation in the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement, the motor cortex, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Harvard University and the City College of the City University of New York used a noninvasive method called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a preventative therapy on 13 patients with chronic migraine, or at least15 attacks a month. After 10 sessions, participants reported an average 37 percent decrease in .

The effects were cumulative and kicked in after about four weeks of treatment, said Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor at the U-M School of Dentistry and lead author of the study, which appears in the journal Headache.

"This suggests that repetitive sessions are necessary to revert ingrained changes in the related to chronic migraine suffering," DaSilva said, adding that study participants had an average history of almost 30 years of .

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The researchers also tracked the electric current flow through the brain to learn how the therapy affected different regions.

"We went beyond, 'OK, this works,'" DaSilva said. "We also showed what possible areas of the brain are affected by the therapy."

They did this by using a high-resolution computational model. They correctly predicted that the electric current would go where directed by the electrodes placed on the subject's head, but the current also flowed through other critical regions of the brain associated with how we perceive and modulate .

"Previously, it was thought that the electric current would only go into the most superficial areas of the cortex," DaSilva said. "We found that pain-related areas very deep in the brain could be targeted."

Other studies have shown that stimulation of the reduces chronic pain. However, this study provided the first known mechanistic evidence that tDCS of the motor cortex might work as an ongoing preventive therapy in complex, chronic migraine cases, where attacks are more frequent and resilient to conventional treatments, DaSilva said.

While the results are encouraging, any clinical application is a long way off, DaSilva said.

"This is a preliminary report," he said. "With further research, noninvasive motor cortex stimulation can be in the future of adjuvant therapy for and other chronic pain disorders by recruiting our own brain analgesic resources."

More information: www.headachejournal.org/view/0/index.html ;

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brain differences found in people with migraine

Nov 19, 2007

People with migraines have differences in an area of the brain that helps process sensory information, including pain, according to a study published in the November 20, 2007, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the ...

Portable device effective in zapping away migraine pain

Jun 26, 2008

novel electronic device designed to "zap" away migraine pain before it starts has proven to be the next form of relief for those suffering from the debilitating disease, according to a study conducted at The Ohio State University ...

Migraine increases risk of severe skin sensitivity and pain

Apr 21, 2008

People with migraine are more likely to experience exacerbated skin sensitivity or pain after non-painful daily activities such as rubbing one’s head, combing one’s hair and wearing necklaces or earrings, compared to ...

Recommended for you

LED exposure is not harmful to human dermal fibroblasts

2 hours ago

There was a time when no one thought about light bulbs—one blew, you screwed another one in. Nowadays, it's more complicated, as energy efficiency concerns have given rise to a slew of options, including ...

Virtual bacteria shed light on cystic fibrosis infections

3 hours ago

The two species of bacteria are genetically similar – both contagious, both drug-resistant, both preying upon people with cystic fibrosis or weakened immune systems – yet they go about their sinister work very differently. ...

How the body fights against viruses

23 hours ago

Scientists of the Max F. Perutz Laboratories of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, together with colleagues of the ETH Zurich, have now shown how double stranded RNA, such as viral ...

User comments