June 27, 2008 Researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center have trailed a portable electronic device designed to stop migraine pain before it starts. The experimental transcranial magnetic stimulator (TMS) unit works by sending a painless, one millisecond magnetic pulse through the neurons in the brain, interrupting the initial "aura phase" of the migraine experienced by many sufferers before it leads to throbbing pain, headaches and nausea.

The extent of the migraine problem is alarming, with the Ohio State University Medical Center citing that one in eight Americans suffer from chronic migraines.

The clinical trial involved 164 patients of which 39 percent were pain free at the two-hour post-treatment point without adverse reactions, compared to 22 percent in the control group.

Ohio State has previously conducted successful studies using a larger TMS device which lead to the development of the more convenient and patient friendly portable unit.

According to the neurologist leading the study, Dr. Yousef Mohammad, the study’s results are promising given that only 50 to 60 percent of migraine patients respond to traditional migraine drug treatments which can have adverse side effects.

“Stimulation with magnetic pulses from the portable TMS device proved effective for the migraine patients,” said Mohammad. “Because of the lack of adverse events in this trial and the established safety of the TMS device, this is a promising treatment for migraines with aura."

The research also opens up a path for future studies into more common "migraines without aura”, with "aura" describing symptoms like flickering lights, loss of vision or pins and needles that can occur before the onset of a migraine headache.

The results of the study are being presented today at the annual American Headache Society meeting in Boston.