Virtual migraine machine unveiled

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The Independent Online
If you don't get migraines but want to find out what it's like, a machine unveiled at the Edinburgh International Science Festival could help you out. Using virtual reality techniques, a new system will recreate the triggers, symptoms and visual disturbances of a migraine - though not the headaches, nausea or vomiting that sufferers often experience.

The four-minute programme first shows wearers of the virtual reality helmet what happens to a migraine sufferer's vision when they feel an attack coming on, and then some indications of the pain and disorientation that sufferers endure in an attack. This is followed by some information about likely causes.

Dr Colin Mumford, consultant neurologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said: "For many migraine sufferers an attack can be so bad that they can do nothing but lie in a dark room for up to three days while they get over it. But the general public is often quite unsympathetic about the condition. They class it as just a headache with a fancy name and don't understand what actually happens. If this new machine can open their eyes to how debilitating the condition is, then perhaps employers, friends and family will be more sympathetic."

Migraine affects about 10 per cent of the UK population, and women are up to three times more likely to experience it. Attacks last between two and 72 hours. Charles Arthur