Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Comatose Locusts May Help Relieve Migraines

Date:
February 11, 2008
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
The way locusts react to stress may provide an important clue to understanding what causes human migraines -- and how to reduce their painful effects, says biologists. They are using insect models to examine how the nervous system controls breathing when stress is induced through high temperatures and oxygen deprivation. They have discovered that the locust's reaction to extreme heat is very similar to a disturbance in mammals that has been associated with human migraines and stroke.

Studying the lowly locust could lead to improved migraine drugs for people.
Credit: Courtesy of Mel Robertson

The way locusts react to stress may provide an important clue to understanding what causes human migraines – and how to reduce their painful effects, says Queen’s Biology professor Mel Robertson.

With PhD student Corinne Rodgers, Dr. Robertson is using insect models to examine how the nervous system controls breathing when stress is induced through high temperatures and oxygen deprivation. They have discovered that the locust’s reaction to extreme heat is very similar to a disturbance in mammals that has been associated with human migraines and stroke.

As a way of temporarily shutting down and conserving energy when conditions are dangerous, the locust’s coma has many of the same characteristics seen in people at the onset of a migraine. “We feel there may be an evolutionary link between the two,” Dr. Robertson suggests.

The study monitors locust breathing cycles, which are controlled by a collection of nerve cells in the central nervous system. With heat or lack of oxygen, the insects initially breathe more quickly and then go into a coma. They recover when the temperature comes down again, or oxygen levels rise.

“We find that the point of coma is always associated with a surge of extra-cellular potassium ions: the same as has been observed in human brain tissue during surgery,” says Ms Rodgers. For the nervous system to work properly, potassium should be high inside cells and low outside, she points out. “What we’re seeing is a failure of that ability to maintain this equilibrium – but in fact, in the locust, it appears to be an adaptive response to protect the system.”

Previous research in Dr. Robertson’s lab has shown a genetic component to this response, which indicates there may be an evolutionary link to what happens during migraines in people. “It’s possible, for example, that the brain architecture necessary for increased sensitivity also predisposes areas of some people’s brains to become over-excited, and that migraines provide a means of temporarily ‘shutting things down,’” he suggests.

While migraine has been associated with this disturbance for some time, the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon are not yet well understood. And that understanding will be key to designing new migraine treatments.

“We found that we could precondition the locust system to be more stress-tolerant. If the mechanisms are the same as those in humans, then similar manipulations could help to protect brain function under stressful conditions, such as those leading to migraine,” says Dr. Robertson.

“Something is triggering events like this,” he adds. “Maybe we can just bias that slightly, so it won’t trigger as often, or the consequences will not be as severe.”

The Queen’s team has two joint patent applications under way: one to manipulate cellular pathways to mitigate the effects of high temperatures on the brain, and the other to manipulate pathways for migraine therapy.

Findings are published on-line in the journal PLoS One. Also on the team are students Gary Armstrong and John LaBrie, research assistant Kelly Shoemaker and Biology professor Chris Moyes. Funding has come from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Comatose Locusts May Help Relieve Migraines." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207101321.htm>.
Queen's University. (2008, February 11). Comatose Locusts May Help Relieve Migraines. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207101321.htm
Queen's University. "Comatose Locusts May Help Relieve Migraines." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080207101321.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins