Jefferson University Hospitals

Jefferson Neurologist Named American Headache Society Award Recipient

09/08/11

Michael L. Oshinsky, Ph.D., assistant professor of Neurology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, and a member of the Jefferson Headache Center team, was recently named the 2011 Harold G. Wolff Lecture award recipient for creating a new animal model of migraine headache.  The award was presented at the 53rd annual scientific meeting of the American Headache Society in Washington, D.C.

The Harold G. Wolff Lecture Award is granted annually by the American Headache Society for the best paper on headache, head or face pain and the nature of pain itself.  The recipient is invited to present the paper at the Society's annual meeting, which is then subsequently published in the journal Headache.

Dr. Oshinsky won the award for his research paper titled, “Spontaneous Trigeminal Allodynia in Rats: A Model of Primary Headache.”  At the meeting, Dr. Oshinsky, presented results from a study where he isolated a colony of rats that behave like they have recurrent headache, similar to people with migraine.  The rats had recurrent facial sensitivity and increased sensitivity to sound.  These behaviors were reversed by drugs known to treat migraine in humans.  In addition, the rats showed increased sensitivity to substances that trigger headaches in people with migraine, such as alcohol.

“Until now, studying the mechanism behind migraine and other forms of recurrent headaches has not been possible in an animal model,” says Dr. Oshinsky. “We believe that these rats can be used to identify new treatments for migraine and other recurrent headache disorders in humans.”

Migraine headaches in humans are associated with hypersensitivity to light touch on the head and face. The researcher measured the rats’ sensitivity to touch around the eye, using probes called von Frey monofilaments. He monitored the change in pain threshold of the face resulting from the repeated dural stimulation.

“Previously, migraine research was driven by patients,” explains Dr. Oshinsky.  “For many patients, migraine pain is private.  Some patients live for years in pain without seeking medical help.  We needed a model of headache to push the field forward.  Our goal through research is to develop treatments that will help end the suffering of millions of migraine patients.”

Dr. Oshinsky and his laboratory team are now also studying the factors that cause some patients to develop frequent migraines and chronic daily headache.

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