Neurofeedback For Migraine Headache

By Diana Roome

Randi Byrne, of California, first got chronic, debilitating migraine headaches in her 20s. By her 40s they were controlling her life. She spent most weekends in bed, missing family outings and events. “I couldn’t take care of my family, I couldn’t do anything,” she says.  

The conventional Rx:
Prescription medications. Byrne tried several pharmaceuticals, including Topamax and Relpax. Sometimes they helped, sometimes they didn’t. In most cases, they lost
effectiveness over time.    

The alternative Rx:
Neurofeedback. Almost like weight lifting for your brain, this therapy trains the brain to work differently. Wearing painless electrodes on their scalps, patients use brainwaves to perform simple tasks, such as rearranging shapes, on a computer screen. The computer is set up so that different computer images can be moved only by specific brainwaves. Kathy Kermit, the California psychologist who used the treatment on Byrne, explains that migraine patients are asked do tasks that do not require high-frequency beta waves, known to cause migraines. During Byrne’s treatment, she simply lined up yellow and purple squares. The exercise reduced the use of beta waves, training her brain to produce waves that were less harmful.

The outcome: 
Learning to use different brainwaves is like learning to ride a bicycle—the skill can become permanent once you get the hang of it, Kermit says. Byrne says it was painless and easy—and she hasn’t had more than two migraines since starting treatment in two years ago.