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No-Needle Migraine Treatment Relieves Kids’ Pain Fast, Study Finds

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Experts say a common, needle-free treatment for adults with migraines may be a good option for kids, too. They presented their findings on March 5 at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Washington, D.C.

Your sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) is a cluster of nerves pressed against the back wall of your nasal cavity. These nerves help inform the brain of all kinds of sensations, including pain, and have been a target for migraine treatments since the early 1900s. Today, adults with migraines and other head pain may be given an SPG block, in which a small catheter of local anesthetic is pushed into their nostril to numb the cluster of nerves. Doing so can bring fast relief and disrupt the debilitating migraine cycle.

The SPG block has been proven to be safe and effective—at least in adults. To find out if it could help kids, too, researchers at Phoenix Children’s Hospital recruited 85 migraine patients between the ages of 7 and 18. Each kid was asked to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10 before the treatment and again 10 minutes afterward.

Like their grownup counterparts, juvenile patients saw fast, significant pain relief with the SPG block. Post-treatment pain levels went down an average of more than two points on the 10-point scale. A two-point decrease may not sound like much, but it could help a kid with a migraine avoid missing school or—in the most severe cases—hospitalization.

Paper co-author Robin Kaye is section chief of interventional radiology at the hospital. She says the block has a lot of advantages, including eliminating the need for additional treatments. “By reducing the need for medications that come with serious side effects or intravenous therapies that may require hospital stays, children don’t have to miss as much school and can get back to being a kid sooner,” she said in a statement.

The treatment is currently only available at Phoenix Children’s, but Kaye says that will likely change soon, as she’s received a lot of interest from other pediatric radiologists.

She told mental_floss: “Until then, parents should either talk to their child’s pediatrician about the best plan of action to treat their child’s migraines, or seek out a pediatric neurologist that specializes in headaches and ask him/her about the possibility of their child receiving this treatment.”

Editor's note: This post has been slightly updated for clarity.

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Women Suffer Worse Migraines Than Men. Now Scientists Think They Know Why
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Migraines are one of medicine's most frustrating mysteries, both causes and treatments. Now researchers believe they've solved one part of the puzzle: a protein affected by fluctuating estrogen levels may explain why more women suffer from migraines than men.

Migraines are the third most common illness in the world, affecting more than 1 in 10 people. Some 75 percent of sufferers are women, who also experience them more frequently and more intensely, and don't respond as well to drug treatments as men do.

At this year's Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, researcher Emily Galloway presented new findings on the connection between the protein NHE1 and the development of migraine headaches. NHE1 regulates the transfer of protons and sodium ions across cell membranes, including the membranes that separate incoming blood flow from the brain.

When NHE1 levels are low or the molecule isn't working as it's supposed to, migraine-level head pain can ensue. And because irregular NHE1 disrupts the flow of protons and sodium ions to the brain, medications like pain killers have trouble crossing the blood-brain barrier as well. This may explain why the condition is so hard to treat.

When the researchers analyzed NHE1 levels in the brains of male and female lab rats, the researchers found them to be four times higher in the males than in the females. Additionally, when estrogen levels were highest in the female specimens, NHE1 levels in the blood vessels of their brains were at their lowest.

Previous research had implicated fluctuating estrogen levels in migraines, but the mechanism behind it has remained elusive. The new finding could change the way migraines are studied and treated in the future, which is especially important considering that most migraine studies have focused on male animal subjects.

"Conducting research on the molecular mechanisms behind migraine is the first step in creating more targeted drugs to treat this condition, for men and women," Galloway said in a press statement. "Knowledge gained from this work could lead to relief for millions of those who suffer from migraines and identify individuals who may have better responses to specific therapies."

The new research is part of a broader effort to build a molecular map of the relationship between sex hormones and NHE1 expression. The next step is testing drugs that regulate these hormones to see how they affect NHE1 levels in the brain.

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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