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The Headache Physiology Lab has a number of research projects related to understanding the causes of headache.

Features of Migraine

Migraine is a very common disease that most likely has many causes. We study migraines’ features and co-morbidities in an effort to understand why migraines occur. Some features we are studying include photophobia, autonomic responses, sex differences, and the effects of stress. High altitude is a common trigger of headaches worldwide; to study the physiological link between altitude and headache disorders, we have developed mouse altitude chambers.

We are also interested in the comorbidity of migraine with stroke, epilepsy, and vascular malformations.

Post-Traumatic Headache

Post-traumatic headache is an epidemic in our military personnel who are exposed to blast injuries. Post-traumatic headache is also extremely common after civilian trauma.

We are investigating how traumatic brain injury appears to sensitize the nervous system, leading to a near-daily headache state that is remarkably similar to chronic migraine.

Spreading Depolarization as a Mechanism of Neurological Disease

Spreading depolarization is a massive wave of neuronal, glial, and vascular excitation that researchers believe causes the migraine aura. It is also associated with traumatic brain injury, stroke, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. More than 60 years after the discovery of spreading depolarization, it is still poorly understood.

Migraine Pain Circuits

Specific neural circuits involved in the manifestation of the migraine phenotype remains unclear. We aim to address this need by studying the ascending pain circuit pathway from cervical dorsal root ganglion to the central circuits.

Headache Treatment Research

Headache disorders desperately need new treatments. While our main focus is to understand the mechanisms of these diseases, we are also actively engaged in pragmatic approaches to identify new treatments.

We work in collaboration with our colleagues in the Anticonvulsant Drug Development Program to identify new treatments.

Clinical Trials

To view what clinical trials we are involved in, type the keywords "headache" and/or "migraine" in our "Search by Keyword" feature found here.


We use a variety of techniques including two-photon microscopy, electrophysiology, and optical intrinsic signal imaging in vivo and in vitro. We also perform focused physiological research on migraine patients.

Headache Physiology Figure
Headache Physiology Figure

Simultaneous in vivo measurements of neuronal membrane voltage and genetically encoded indicator of neuronal calcium during spreading depolarization.

Simultaneous in vivo recordings of neuronal membrane voltage and genetically encoded indicator of extracellular glutamate during spreading depolarization.