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Dr Zameel Cader of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences has helped to set up the Oxford Headache Centreto unite researchers and clinicians with the common purpose of improving the lives of headache sufferers.


Speaking to the Oxford Mail, he said, 'A Headache. You probably just put up with it and carry on with work and life. But what if it’s a headache that you can’t put to one side? A headache that means you have to stop what you are doing and lie down or take time off work.

Perhaps you get a type of headache so bad, it’s been called ‘suicide headache’.

For those who don’t get headaches, it can often be difficult to appreciate just how much they can restrict life.

Perhaps that’s why in general, headache sufferers get a bad deal from an under-resourced NHS.

The most common type of headache that a family doctor will see is migraine.

Migraine has been ranked as a leading cause of disability by the World Health Organisation and costs the UK economy over £3bn a year.

So it is a disorder that everyone should be paying close attention to.

For many people there are effective treatments, but for a good number of people the existing treatments don’t work. This is why I study and research migraine and its causes.

Our understanding of migraine and its treatments has evolved over the millennia, from the binding of clay crocodiles to the head by ancient Egyptians to modern drugs targeting specific molecules in the brain.

There is still much to learn, but one thing that has clearly emerged is that migraine and other headaches are foremost a brain and nerve disorder.

In fact, even between headache attacks, the migraine brain is functioning in a very different way to a normal brain. We have only scratched the surface of why the migraine brain is different, but a better understanding will lead to new and improved treatments.

The Oxford Headache Centre was set up to unite researchers and clinicians with the common purpose of improving the lives of headache sufferers.

Part of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and based at the John Radcliffe Hospital, the centre is a good example of a productive partnership between Oxford University and the NHS.

The close connection between research and clinical practice is crucial, since we hope to turn our discoveries in the lab into better treatments as quickly as possible.

The research undertaken at the centre is diverse. We could be studying images of the brain, looking at nerve cells from headache patients in a dish, or screening new compounds that might become future drugs.

This is only possible because of the willingness of headache sufferers to take part in these studies and we will continue to look for their support in the future.

The centre will see people with the most difficult headaches – sometimes we will be able to improve things and sometimes we won’t – but we hope that in time we will be making a real difference to the quality of life of a neglected and large group of patients.