Current research projects
Learn about research work that The Migraine Trust is currently funding
The neurophysiological role of amylin in migraine
|Grant holder||Dr Phil Holland and Dr Jan Hoffmann – Principal Investigators, Headache Group|
|Researcher||Hannah Creeney – The Migraine Trust PhD Student|
|Period||September 2019 – 2022|
|Location||King’s College London|
Our latest PhD studentship was awarded to a project that is being led by Dr Jan Hoffmann and Dr Philip Holland at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London. The project is ‘The neurophysiological role of amylin in migraine’ and the studentship was awarded to neuroscientist Hannah Creeney who commenced her research in September 2019.
Amylin is a neuropeptide that is known to have similar mechanisms to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a neuropeptide that is released during migraine attacks and can increase the activation of the nerves that relay headache and facial pain signals to the brain. Amylin and CGRP bind to each other’s receptor and this research will examine if amylin’s actions on these receptors are relevant for migraine. The research aims to determine if an increased understanding of amylin could lead to a new treatment for migraine.
The project has a personal element for Hannah as she has several family and friends who get migraine. Knowing how difficult it is to live with she hopes that her research will help improve the lives of the millions of people worldwide who are affected by migraine.
Hannah, Jan and Phil are grateful to The Migraine Trust’s donors for enabling this important research.
Neuromodulation in migraine and other headaches
|Grant holder and researcher||Dr Anna Andreou – Primary Investigator, Migraine Trust Senior Research Fellow|
|Researcher||Joseph Lloyd – The Migraine Trust PhD Student|
|Period||September 2016 – 2020|
|Location||King’s College London|
This project, which supports Dr Anna Andreou as a Migraine Trust Senior Fellow and Joseph Lloyd to undertake his PhD studentship, aims to further understand migraine pathophysiology (what happens in the brain that leads to migraine symptoms) and to identify the mechanism of action of neuromodulation techniques in migraine.
The Migraine Trust is proud to be supporting Dr Andreou’s important work. Her early career in migraine research was supported by a Migraine Trust PhD Studentship award in 2005. Then in 2012 she was awarded a Migraine Trust Research Fellowship. This career development award aims to support outstanding researchers to consolidate their skills in headache research and be independent investigators. Anna has received a number of awards, including the European Headache and Migraine Trust International Congress (EHMTIC) New Scientist Lecture Award in 2010 and 2012, and the Trainees Excellence Award by the International Headache Society in 2015. Her work has been published in leading medical journals including Brain and Cephalalgia.
In her research, funded by The Migraine Trust, Anna investigates how modulation of the brain pathways activated early during a migraine attack, could prevent the development of migraine headache. Through her novel projects, Anna hopes to increase our understanding of the migraine pathophysiology and of approaches that could prevent the attacks in sufferers.
Joseph was granted a Migraine Trust PhD Studentship in 2016. In his thesis, supervised by Dr Andreou at King’s College London, Joseph aims to investigate the mechanisms of action of three different neuromodulation techniques. These being; transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and occipital nerve stimulation (ONS). Through his studies, Joseph hopes to shed more light on the neuromodulation mechanisms needed to treat and prevent migraine attacks.
Both Anna and Joseph are extremely thankful for all the funding and encouragement they receive from The Migraine Trust supporters and fundraisers.
Circadian biology of migraine
|Grant holder||Dr Phil Holland – Principal Investigator, Headache Group|
|Researcher||Lauren Strother – The Migraine Trust PhD Student|
|Period||June 2016 – 2020|
|Location||King’s College London|
With thanks to individual supporters of The Migraine Trust who gave donations to a fundraising appeal in 2015, we have been able to secure further funding to enable Lauren Strother to embark on a PhD studentship.
Lauren began her project in June 2016 within the department of basic and clinical neuroscience at King’s College London. Over the next four years, she will investigate how circadian rhythms (daily body cycles such as sleep-wake) impact on migraine triggering and susceptibility, as disruption in circadian regulation, such as jet lag and shift work, can trigger migraine attacks.
The study is an entirely new area of research developed from the existing scientific knowledge of migraine. It is Lauren’s hope that this work will result in the possibility of new treatment options and lifestyle changes that could help lighten the burden on migraine sufferers.
Investigating migraine and its treatment with functional MRI methods
|Grant holder||Dr Nazia Karsan|
|Period||February 2019 – 2020|
|Location||Headache Group, King’s College London|
Lay summary of the research project
This project uses provocation of migraine attacks using intravenous nitroglycerin in migraineurs (people diagnosed with migraine) in combination with functional brain scanning using MRI methods. Nitroglycerin is a well-established and potent migraine trigger which is safe and effective to use in an experimental setting to reliably and reproducibly provoke migraine in known sufferers. Functional MR imaging allows imaging of brain function using measurements of blood flow and brain activity in a non-invasive and safe way.
Interested participants are screened and if eligible are invited to a series of study visits during which they are exposed to nitroglycerin or placebo (dummy). On most of these visits, following migraine provocation, brain imaging is performed for 30-45 minutes at four intervals – at baseline, during symptoms prior to headache, during migraine headache and following effective headache resolution after treatment with either sumatriptan injection or aspirin injection.
Using this methodology, information about functional brain changes throughout the entirety of the migraine attack is acquired in the absence of radiation and in a non-invasive fashion in a repeated measures design, and with comparison of changes following nitroglycerin and following placebo. Additionally, the effect of effective migraine analgesia or potential brain signature of effective headache resolution may be appreciated on brain imaging.
We aim to increase understanding of the neurobiology of migraine through functional brain imaging, in particular how the brain’s function changes throughout a migraine attack, from the early stages prior to pain through to during pain and following headache resolution. Some of this work has already been done and analysed, but we have an interest in comparing some of these findings to those found in healthy controls following the same stimulation, and in understanding the effect of effective migraine treatments on the brain.