Students Staff

03 March 2008

Migraine sufferers can help find new treatment

Colchester Campus

Migraine sufferers are being sought for a major new research project by the University of Essex.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the two-year investigation by the Visual Perception Unit in the Department of Psychology, aims to examine the potential of a new optical technique which could be used to assess treatment for migraines.

The research team will be looking at the brain’s response to visual stimulation and whether there are any differences in people with migraine, particularly those who are photophobic or sensitive to light. The study is focussing on the effect in people who suffer from migraines and headache when they see flickered or striped patterns.

Research officer Louise Coutts said: 'When people are looking at things, the blood in the brain changes colour slightly. This happens because the nerves in the brain demand oxygen and so our blood carries oxygen to these nerves changing the colour of the brain from blue to red. The change in colour is measured by shining low intensity light through the scalp and the skull using optic fibres. The technique is called near infra-red spectroscopy and is harmless.'

Volunteers need to be aged between 18 and 60 and people who do not suffer from migraines are also needed. Everyone will be asked to look at patterns on a screen – either checks or stripes. Testing takes less than one hour. Volunteers simply wear a close fitting rubber cap, similar to that used by hairdressers, which contains the optic fibres that shine light on the head.

For further information, or if you wish to take part, please contact Louise Coutts on 01206 873422 or e-mail

For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 874377 or e-mail

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