Migraine Research, Part 2

The Physicians Committee

Beyond Animal Research

By Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D.
April 2005

Migraine Research, Part II

In last month’s column, I described a small sampling of “migraine” studies on animals, involving usually terminal, invasive procedures on unconscious (anesthetized) animals (cats, monkeys, rats, etc.) who have no way of communicating symptoms. But other researchers are pursuing very different paths.

The following sampling of recent studies underscores the broad range of human clinical methods available for advancing our understanding of this important condition:

  • Fifteen patients with genetic predisposition for migraine were examined using proton MR spectroscopy to investigate metabolic alterations in migraine-active brain regions. Seventeen healthy subjects served as controls.1
  • A validated face-to-face interview questionnaire was used to document clinical characteristics of migraine and patterns of medication use in 8,618 patients from 12 Latin American urban communities.2
  • The efficacy of two migraine drugs was compared in 91 patients at two and 24 hours post-treatment using two different pain assessment rating instruments.3
  • A systematic literature review was undertaken to assess the clinical record of using intravenous and/or oral niacin as treatment for various types of headache, including migraine.4
  • A combination of techniques—neurological and ophthalmological exams, EEG, visual evoked potentials (VEPs), single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), and brain perfusion MRI—were used to diagnose a patient with a rare complication of migraine.5
  • Contrast echocardiography was used to detect atrial defects across up to three generations in 18 families, to determine the heritability of this migraine-associated syndrome.6
  • A meta-analysis of published case-control studies was undertaken to address the relationship between migraine and white matter abnormalities, a brain feature that shows up in MRIs.7
  • Transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD) was used to assess cerebral blood flow velocity changes in cerebral arteries (PCA) during repetitive checkerboard visual stimulation of 19 migraine sufferers and 19 healthy volunteers.8
  • The efficacy of botulinum injections as a means of deactivating migraine trigger sites in the brain was studied with 125 patients, 25 of whom served as controls. Various post-intervention assessment instruments (e.g., the Migraine Specific Questionnaire) were used to assess outcomes and adverse effects.9
  • Corrugator muscle resection was performed on sixty patients, with follow-up evaluations performed between 6 and 18 months post-surgery to assess outcomes.10

These and other clinical approaches may not necessarily advance the diagnosis and/or treatment of migraine on every outing. But what can be certain is that the findings are more relevant to the human condition and thus more likely to result in clinically useful outcomes.

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., is a PCRM research consultant with a background in ethology. He is the author of The Use of Animals in Higher Education, as well as many scientific papers on humane life science education and animal behavior. His recent scientific review showing that animal experiments are more stressful than previously understood was published in Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science.

1. Dichgans M, Herzog J, Freilinger T, Wilke M, Auer DP. 1H-MRS alterations in the cerebellum of patients with familial hemiplegic migraine type 1. Neurology. 2005;64(4):608-613.
2. Morillo LE, Alarcon F, Aranaga N, Aulet S, Chapman E, Conterno L, Estevez E, Garcia-Pedroza F, Garrido J, Macias-Islas M, Monzillo P, Nunez L, Plascencia N, Rodriguez C, Takeuchi Y; Latin American Migraine Study Group. Clinical characteristics and patterns of medication use of migraneurs in Latin America from 12 cities in 6 countries. Headache. 2005;45(2):118-126.
3. Friedman BW, Corbo J, Lipton RB, Bijur PE, Esses D, Solorzano C, Gallagher EJ. A trial of metoclopramide vs. sumatriptan for the emergency department treatment of migraines. Neurology. 2005;64(3):463-468.
4. Prousky J, Seely D. The treatment of migraines and tension-type headaches with intravenous and oral niacin (nicotinic acid): systematic review of the literature. Nutr J. 2005;4(1):3.
5. Relja G, Granato A, Ukmar M, Ferretti G, Antonello RM, Zorzon M. Persistent aura without infarction: decription of the first case studied with both brain SPECT and perfusion MRI. Cephalalgia. 2005;25(1):56-59.
6. Wilmshurst PT, Pearson MJ, Nightingale S, Walsh KP, Morrison WL. Inheritance of persistent foramen ovale and atrial septal defects and the relation to familial migraine with aura. Heart. 2004;90(11):1315-1320.
7. Swartz RH, Kern RZ. Migraine is associated with magnetic resonance imaging white matter abnormalities: a meta-analysis. Arch Neurol. 2004;61(9):1366-1368.
8. Nedeltchev K, Arnold M, Schwerzmann M, Nirkko A, Lagger F, Mattle HP, Sturzenegger M. Cerebrovascular response to repetitive visual stimulation in interictal migraine with aura. Cephalalgia. 2004;24(9):700-706.
9. Guyuron B, Kriegler JS, Davis J, Amini SB. Comprehensive surgical treatment of migraine headaches. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2005;115(1):1-9.
10. Dirnberger F, Becker K. Surgical treatment of migraine headaches by corrugator muscle resection. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2004;114(3):652-657; discussion 658-659.