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Migraine headaches involve intense pain, often for several hours at a time. They can be extremely disabling and can result in the migraine sufferer’s inability to function at work or at home. Often the individual has to lie down in a darkened room until the migraine passes. Migraines are often preceded by a period of time in which the individual experiences a strange feeling in his or her head or gut, or other unusual sensations without a headache that is known as an “aura.”

The exact cause of migraines is poorly understood, but they are thought to be complex neurovascular phenomena that involve misfiring of the trigeminal nerve, excessive dilation of blood vessels and activity in the brainstem. A combination of neurofeedback, HEG and other biofeedback techniques has been found to significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of migraine headaches. Some studies have found abnormalities in the electophysiological (brainwave) activity in migraine patients, which suggest that training the brain to alter its electrophysiological activity in certain frequency bands might be effective. Clinical studies have indicated that this can be an effective treatment. Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of HEG training, in which cerebral blood flow is increased in the pre-frontal cortex, which might help the brain inhibit pain sensations. The type of HEG that we use is called passive Infrared Hemoencephalography (pIR HEG). These techniques are combined with biofeedback-assisted practices for regulating one’s breathing, which balances sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous system activity, and hand warming, which has a calming effect and might divert blood away from overly dilated blood vessels in the brain.

Studies which support the use of neurofeedback in migraine control include:

Carmen, J. (2004). Passive infrared hemoencephalography: four years and 100 migraines. Journal of Neurotherapy, vol. 8 (4), 23-51.

Stokes, DA & Lappin, MS. (2010). Neurofeedback and biofeedback with 37 migraineurs: a clinical outcome study. Behavioral and Brain Functions, vol. 6 (9).