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Moore Studies Migraines, Concussions

Most of Maggy Moore’s (HPER) recent research has focused on the human head. She studied the impact of migraines on physical balance and on the neurocognitive function in college students. Now she is recruiting hockey and soccer players ages 5-11 for a study that will define the parameters for the only computerized concussion evaluation system for children. She is pictured center with students helping with the concussion study.

Moore presented two papers at the September 2012 European Headache and Migraine Trust International Congress in London. Both were published in the Journal of Headache and Pain. One was based on her study that examined differences in dynamic balance between those who suffer from migraines and a control group of subjects who do not. Participants completed a clinical test of sensory integration and balance-tested stability with their eyes open and closed on both firm and foam surfaces over 30-second intervals.

“Balance is a complex process involving visual, vestibular and neuromuscular control,” she wrote in the abstract. “Migraineurs often report vertigo and dizziness symptoms during and post-migraine. Little research has examined dynamic balance in migraineurs compared to individuals who do not have migraines. We found that migraineurs exhibited difficulty with center-of-gravity shifts to the right and left when tested within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. That’s when ankle sprains, trips or falls can ensue.”

The other study investigated neurocognitive function and recovery patterns in college students who incur migraines compared with those who do not. After being matched for gender, age and education level, both groups were measured for verbal/visual memory, processing speed and reaction time. The study concluded that migraineurs’ neurocognitive function was affected in the postdromal phase after a migraine. However, the cognitive decline was primarily reversible within 48 hours of symptom onset.

Moore has now turned her attention to concussions, which have gained traction as one of the most pressing issues in sports. She hopes to recruit 100 youth volunteer subjects from within a one-hour radius of Marquette. Participants will take three brief tests: an initial baseline and follow-ups at one week and one month. The interactive tests are administered on iPads with assistance from NMU certified athletic trainers and graduate students. They use games to measure short and long-term memory, motor processing speed, visual memory and reaction time.

The goal is to develop “normative values” that can be entered into a software system called ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. ImPACT is already used at the high school-through-professional levels to help determine when it is safe for athletes to return to play. Mark Lovell, an NMU alumnus and neuropsychological consultant for several professional sports organizations, contributed $50,000 to the project. NMU will beta test the version for younger players before it becomes widely available.

“The goal when we get funding for phase 2 will be to study those who’ve suffered concussions and determine what is normal,” said Moore. “It’s hard to tell with young kids because all they know is that they feel funny. Their brains heal more slowly than adults. They’ve been underrepresented in the research. For parents, there’s some peace of mind knowing your child can have a test to help determine when they’re ready to return to action.”

Parents of interested participants can contact Moore at mmoore@nmu.edu or ext. 2228.