• Hatch, John P (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Muscle contraction headache (MCH) is one of the most common
psychosomatic disorders, with estimates of incidence in the
general population ranging from 20% to 60%. Although the
disorder is usually not considered serious, MCH accounts for a
high number of patient contacts by physicians, and it exacts a
high cost to society in terms of personal distress and limitations
on occupational, recreational , and social activities. Ironically,
there is no acceptable operational definition of MCH that is based
on myogenic hyperactivity, which is presumed to play a key role
in the pathophysiology. Instead, a diagnosis of MCH is usually
based on the exclusion of organic and vascular etiologies and on
the patients' subjective report for the type of pain experienced.
Nonetheless, many medical and behavioral treatments are aimed
at reducing tension levels in key head and neck muscles. The
long-term objective of the proposed research is the development
of an operational definition of MCH that takes into account the
relation between measured muscular activity and pain. The
development of such a definition would be expected to lead to
improved diagnostic and treatment techniques. The following
three specific aims of the proposed research are related to the
achievement of the long term objective: (1) examine the test-
retest reliability of a psychophysiological test battery designed to
measure the activity of key head and neck muscles of MCH
patients and normal controls under standardized laboratory
conditions, (2) compare the behavior of key head and neck muscles
of MCH patients and normal controls in the laboratory and in
their natural environment, (3) define the temporal and
topographic relationships of MCH episodes with their emotional,
behavioral, and physiological antecedents and consequences
through ambulatory monitoring in the natural environment. In
laboratory studies, MCH and control subjects will perform choice
reaction time, psychomotor tracking, and cold pressor tests while
EMG activity in head and neck muscles is recorded. The test-
retest reliability, validity, and sensitivity of these tests will be
evaluated. In the natural environment data will be obtained using
an ambulatory EMG recorder that is capable of measuring EMG
activity over a 24-hour period. Subjects will also periodically rate
their perceived pain and stress levels, and they will describe their
ongoing behavior. These data will be related to EMG data over
periods of time ranging from minutes to days.
Effective start/end date7/1/876/30/91


  • National Institutes of Health


  • Medicine(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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