Suppressing a migraine attack before it even begins: De Hersenstichting invests in research on early detection

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

De Hersenstichting is investing €378,000 in a large interdisciplinary Medical Delta research project. The research aims to detect signals of an impending migraine attack at an earlier stage and identify personal triggers for such attacks. The researchers intend to do this by monitoring people who regularly suffer from migraines in their home environment for an extended period, using special 'caps' to determine brain sensitivity.

The research project, called 'Migraine@Home,' contributes to the scientific program Medical Neurodelta, in which scientists from LUMC, TU Delft, and Erasmus MC collaborate closely within the Medical Delta framework.

Unpredictable headaches

Migraine is a common brain disorder characterized by unpredictable headaches. These headaches have a significant personal and societal impact. The exact causes of a migraine attack are not yet fully understood. However, it is known that migraine patients are sensitive to specific triggers, such as fatigue, stress, or menstruation. Often, it's a combination of factors that triggers a migraine attack.

Patients would greatly benefit from better understanding their personal triggers for migraine attacks. Early detection of impending attacks could also help them reduce the consequences of an attack.

Simultaneous measurement

Currently, there are no reliable outcome measures that indicate brain sensitivity to an impending migraine attack. A migraine attack is caused by a personal combination of triggers and the brain's sensitivity at a specific moment. Only by measuring both simultaneously can you determine an increased risk of a migraine attack. The researchers aim to identify personal migraine attack triggers by using an innovative e-headache diary. This diary collects detailed information about triggers that provoke attacks from each participating patient.

At the same time, patients will monitor their brain activity at home using so-called 'caps' that they can easily put on themselves. This allows them to determine the (changing) brain sensitivity in the lead-up to a migraine attack.

First migraine research with home monitoring

"With this research, we are the first to monitor migraine patients in their home environment, where they experience their natural triggers," says Prof. Dr. Gisela Terwindt (LUMC), the principal investigator of the research project. "This way, we get the best picture of the personal combination of triggers and the changing brain sensitivity leading up to an attack."

"Within the project, we are optimizing the technology for conducting home measurements. We are using newly developed technology with new caps so that migraine patients can perform the measurements themselves at home," says Prof. Dr. Arn van den Maagdenberg (LUMC), one of the Scientific Leaders of the scientific program Medical NeuroDelta and a co-applicant of the project. "For this, we are collaborating with colleagues from TU Delft and the company TMSi."

Co-applicant Dr. Mark van de Ruit (TU Delft) explains: "From TU Delft, we will focus on improving the current measurement and data processing methods to reliably and efficiently determine brain sensitivity." Tech company TMSi specializes in developing advanced solutions for measuring electrophysiological signals from the brain. "For a company like ours, it is important that we can collaborate closely with research experts," says Dr. Asker Bazen from TMSi.

More control through timely measures

"By combining information from the headache app with brain activity measurements, this research project should lead to a first method and initial insight into predicting migraine attacks. Ultimately, we hope that it will result in more control for people with migraines over their headache attacks. For example, by taking measures on days when your brain is more sensitive," says Remco van Veen, Manager of Knowledge and Innovation at De Hersenstichting.

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