Magnetic pulse device relieves migraine pain
An electronic device that sends a magnetic pulse into the brain has been
shown to be effective in reducing the effects of migraine.
A study led by
Ohio State University Medical Center neurologists found that the
experimental device appears to be effective in eliminating the headache when
administered during the onset of the migraine.
The results were presented
at the annual American Headache Society meeting in Los Angeles in early
June. A subsequent study will examine the device in a larger population.
The device, called TMS, sends a strong electric current through a metal
coil, which creates an intense magnetic field for about one millisecond.
This magnetic pulse, when held against a person’s head, creates an electric
current in the neurons of the brain, interrupting the aura before it results
in a throbbing headache.
The magnetic pulse interrupts the aura phase of
the migraine, often described as electrical storms in the brain, before they
lead to headaches. Auras are neural disturbances that signal the onset of
migraine headaches. People who suffer from migraine headaches often describe
“seeing” showers of shooting stars, zigzagging lines and flashing lights,
and experiencing loss of vision, weakness, tingling or confusion. What
typically follows these initial symptoms is intense throbbing head pain,
nausea and vomiting.
Dr. Yousef Mohammad, a neurologist at OSU Medical
Center who presented the results, says that the patients in this study
reported a significant reduction in nausea, noise and light sensitivity post
“Perhaps the most significant effect of using the TMS device
was on the two-hour symptom assessment, with 84 percent of the episodes in
patients using the TMS occurring without noise sensitivity. Work functioning
also improved, and there were no side effects reported,” Mohammad said.
“The device’s pulses are painless. The patients have felt a little pressure,
but that’s all,” said Mohammad, who is principal investigator of the study
at Ohio State.
“In our study sample, 69% of the TMS-related headaches
reported to have either no or mild pain at the two-hour post-treatment point
compared to 48% of the placebo group. In addition, 42 percent of the
TMS-treated patients graded their headache response, without symptoms, as
very good or excellent compared to 26% for the placebo group. These are very
It was previously believed that migraine headaches
start with vascular constriction, which results in an aura, followed by
vascular dilation that will lead to a throbbing headache. However, in the
late 1990s it was instead suggested that neuronal electrical hyper
excitability resulted in a throbbing headache. This new understanding of the
migraine mechanism has assisted with the development of the TMS device.