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Investigating neural oscillations in the migraine brain using electrophysiology and behavioural performance

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2023
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2023

Project ID: S3 14

Migraine is a common but debilitating neurological conditions, however it is poorly understood and commonly misdiagnosed. Migraine has strong links to vision – during attacks individuals report aversion to light, and in between attacks they typically show poorer performance on simple visual tasks. Importantly, visual stimuli have been reported to trigger migraine attacks, so discovering how the visual areas of the brain might be different in migraine is important if we are to develop effective preventative treatments in the future. This PhD is to explore migraine brain function, using a combination of behavioural techniques and electrophysiology to measure brain activity.

What might be different in the migraine brain? It has been suggested that the migraine brain is “noisy” compared to those without migraine. Too much noise in the brain would result in poorer performance on visual tasks, despite increased brain activity. This project will answer an important theoretical question about migraine pathophysiology – do those with migraine have “noisier” brains?

Where might the noise come from? This could be due to how the brain communicates. The brain is thought to communicate using synchronised activity called “neural oscillations”, which have important implications for both how well people perform tasks. These oscillations control how “connected” the brain is – just like a telephone network, too many connections mean there is a risk of too much irrelevant information, not enough and information will not be passed on effectively. This PhD would focus on two main types of oscillation that are both associated with perception, alpha band oscillations (8-12Hz) and gamma band oscillations (30-100Hz). This project investigates if the migraine brain communicates differently, as this could explain their differences in perception, and susceptibility to attacks.

How is communication in the brain affected in migraine? Communication in the brain is controlled by inhibitory processes, at the level of brain cells (neurons). It has been suggested that the migraine brain has problems with inhibitory processing at the cell level. Whilst it is not possible to measure inhibitory processes in humans directly, these can be investigated by testing how well people can do tasks that rely on them. We predict people with migraine perform poorly on tasks that rely on inhibitory processes between neurons. If this can be demonstrated, then this will provide a mechanism for the differences in migraine. This mechanism is critical as it can be used to form the theoretical basis for effective preventative therapy for migraine.

Supervisory Team:

Louise O’Hare

Christina Howard

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

To make an application, please visit our studentship application page.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2023 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Application guidance can be found on our studentship application page.

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