Magnetic Stimulation Shows Promise for Nondrug Treatment

photo: man having a headache

TMS is a treatment option for
migraine sufferers unable to tolerate
medication; © SXC/ mikecco

In a clinical study by the Ohio State University Medical Center, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to treat patients who suffer from migraine with aura, a condition in which a variety of mostly visual sensations come before or accompany the pain of a migraine attack. The study showed that TMS treatment was superior to the placebo given to the control group. Patients were pain-free at follow-up intervals of 2, 24 and 48 hours.

In the new study, conducted in rats, researchers at the University of California - San Francisco (UCSF) focused on understanding the mechanism of action of TMS therapy. They examined how the treatment interacted with the brain to produce the pain-free outcomes of patients in the previous study.

The UCSF research identified potential opportunities to enhance treatment strategies in patients. One example, the study team noted, was that factors such as time and peak intensity of stimulation may be important components in the brain's response to TMS.

The study findings showed that migraine aura responds to magnetic stimulation because TMS therapy blocks the wave of neuronal excitation, which is a biological system through which neurons become stimulated to fire. TMS creates a focused magnetic pulse that passes noninvasively through the skull, inducing an electric current to disrupt the abnormal brain waves believed to be associated with migraine, including CSD. CSD in humans precedes migraine with aura.

The American Academy of Neurology estimates that over 30 million Americans suffer from migraine, a syndrome characterized by recurrent, often excruciating headaches. The National Headache Foundation estimates that migraine causes 157 million lost workdays each year due to pain and associated migraine symptoms, resulting in a $13 billion burden to American employers.; Quelle: University of California