Student-led Psychophysiology Research Published

T Patrick - P WoodyResearch conducted at CBU on brain activity in people who experience migraines has been published “online first” in the journal, Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. The article, entitled “Auditory event-related potentials in the interictal phase of migraine indicate alterations in automatic attention,” is co-authored by Dr. Jeffrey Sable (Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences), Toni Patrick (Natural Science ’14), Patrick Woody (Psychology ’17), Katelyn Baker (Biochemistry ’16), Stephanie Allen-Winters (Biology ’14), and Dr. Frank Andrasik (Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychology at the University of Memphis). A view-only PDF of the article is freely available and it will be published in print next year.

The researchers measured electrical activity from the brains of both migraineurs and those who do not experience migraines. All individuals watched a silent video while sounds played in the background. Although the study sessions took place between headaches, certain brain responses to these ignored sounds were larger in the migraineurs.

Jeff Sable“It’s well established that migraine headaches are part of a larger cycle in those who experience them,” Sable explains. “Brain activity between headaches is abnormal, and it actually normalizes during the headache. The headache itself seems to be a sort of release valve.” Sable’s team looked at brain responses related to attention.

“The larger responses we saw in migraineurs suggests that they may experience some degree of heightened sensitivity to things in their environment, even when they don’t have a headache. In contrast, if these responses get smaller during headaches, as has been found with other brain activity, the headaches themselves may be accompanied by a sort of ‘mental fogginess’.”

The study was initiated by students in Sable’s Psychophysiology course at CBU, including Patrick, Baker, and Allen-Winters. Patrick and Woody later completed the study. Andrasik, a clinical psychologist and leading migraine expert, helped to finalize the paper for publication. Patrick and Woody have presented the research at conferences, including an international audience at an annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research. Sable said he takes pride in the interdisciplinary nature of this work: “The authors on this paper include students–now alumni–from four different CBU departments. That’s a big deal to me.”