Using EEG electrical signals to monitor migraines

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have discovered that using non-invasive electroencephalograms (EEGs) can diagnose the brainwave associated with migraines and epilepsy. The new method produces results comparable to the current, more invasive, standard.


The UBC team’s discovery could lead to better treatment and diagnosis of these conditions.

The low-frequency brainwave linked to migraines and epilepsy is called cortical spreading depression (CSD) and at this time is studied by placing electrodes directly on the surface of the brain. However, the researchers from UBC, Germany and Iran found that EEGs, which are produced by placing electrodes only onto the scalp, can actually produce equally reliable data if a specially designed amplifier is used in tandem.

“Using this method, we found that the electrical signals acquired from the skin of the scalp were very similar to those acquired from the surface of the brain,” said Zoya Bastany, lead researcher and master’s student in the faculty of applied science at UBC.

Bastany designed an AC/DC amplifier capable of retrieving the electrical signals from scalp electrodes used on anesthetized rats. The amplifier allows the signals to be picked up in a much broader frequency range than standard clinical EEG systems. When the CSD brainwave was induced in the rats, the recordings from scalp electrodes were compared with recordings from electrodes placed on the rats’ brains.

According to Guy Dumont, UBC electrical and computer engineering professor, this is the first time ever that cortical spreading depression has been accurately measured using EEGs.

“The new method opens up uses for EEGs in studying cortical spreading depression in a non-invasive manner and without a significant increase in diagnostic costs compared to standard EEG,” said Dumont.

The team believes that this new analysis technique could lead to the development of migraine drugs that target the CSD brainwave, as well as a better understanding of other neurological disorders.



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