Neurofeedback Treatment Reduces Migraines
Dr Shelley Hyman
Migraines are debilitating and effect approximately 18% of women and 6% of men. Individuals who frequently experience migraines often find their work and social lives impacted. A high proportion of migraine suffers have reported that the predominantly pharmacological treatments they utilise either, takes too long to reduce the pain, is unreliable or that it does not relieve it at all. Furthermore, approximately 70% find that their migraines return after treatment. Since pharmacological treatment options come with a large number of side effects the ability to use an alternative low risk treatment method is highly appealing.
A study conducted by Walker (2011) investigated the utilisation of neurofeedback as a treatment for migraines without auras in a group of individuals aged 17 to 67 years for the period of a year. It was established that all the migraine suffers who participated in the study had an excess high-frequency of beta activity (21-30 Hz) in 1-4 cortical areas. Of these areas the most significant abnormalities were located in the parietal, central and frontal regions of migraine suffers brains.
Throughout the study participants, who choose neurofeedback over pharmacological treatment received five neurofeedback sessions which went for a duration of 30 minutes each. These sessions were performed to decrease the beta activity of 21-30Hz at each location where it was found to be elevated and concurrently increase 10Hz. Walker (2011) found 54% of his participants experienced complete remission of their migraines. Moreover, the majority of participants who did not experience complete remission did find that the frequency of their migraines significantly decreased. Although not a surprising result based on previous findings, the majority of participants who elected to continue pharmacological treatment did not experience any changes in the frequency of their migraines. A reduction of greater than 50% was only noted in 6% of those receiving pharmacological treatments.
Neurofeedback could therefore prove to be an effective, non-evasive treatment for migraine suffers who have previously found pharmacological treatments ineffective or wish to not utilise pharmacological treatment methods. Its ability to significantly reduce migraines or eliminate them could have significant effects on individuals work and social lives.
- Walker, J. E. (2011). QEEG-guided neurofeedback for recurrent migraine headaches. Clinical EEG and neuroscience, 42(1), 59-61.