Electric shock ‘could cure headache’
- Electrical current alters speed at which brain neurons fire, relieving pain
- Releases painkillers that have similar properties to opiates such as morphine
- Reduced pain of chronic headaches by 37 per cent over four weeks
- Long-term could reduce the amount of medication needed
Scientists have managed to release the body’s most powerful painkillers by running an electrical current through the brain.
The breakthrough has provided hope for sufferers of chronic migraine after it was found to reduce the pain of a headache by up to 37 per cent.
The technique, known as deep brain stimulation, or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), alters the speed at which the brain’s neurons fire. This, in turn, can relieve pain.
The painkillers released by the brain were endogenous opioids – the human body’s most powerful, euphoria-inducing painkillers that are very similar to opiates such as morphine.
The new research, conducted at the University of Michigan, found that just a very small current – of two milliamps – was enough to have the effect.
Thirteen patients with chronic migraine – defined as least 15 attacks a month – had electrodes were placed above the motor cortex – the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement.
After 10 sessions over four weeks, the average person’s pain threshold had increased by 37 per cent after four weeks.