Hot flashes, a common symptom of menopause, involves a rise in skin temperature in the face and upper body. These hot flashes can also make blood vessels under the skin dilate, which is the reason for the “flushed” look of menopause women. The condition also causes a feeling of intense heat and sweating.
Listening to brain waves for signs of hot flashes
Researchers from Wake Forest University shared that special headphones enable patients to “listen” to their brainwaves when they have hot flashes.
The headphones are connected to a device with sensors that detect brainwaves, and the sensors then turn these signals into audible sounds that patients can hear almost instantaneously. The sounds can help “trigger the brain into correcting the nervous system,” which may have a crucial role when it comes to mitigating hot flashes. At least 50 female participants are now involved in a clinical trial of the device in America.
The exact cause of hot flashes remains unknown, but one theory suggests that it is connected to “a malfunction of the heat control mechanisms in the brain” that can be caused by the changes in hormone levels that occur during menopause.
The autonomic, or involuntary, nervous system, may also be linked to hot flashes. It helps control unconscious bodily functions like the heartbeat.
The device, called HIRREM or high-resolution, relational, resonance-based, electroencephalic mirroring, helps detect any changes in the brain’s activity. HIRREM has three components: Scalp sensors, a small computer, and headphones.
The sensors on the scalp will first monitor electrical activity in the brain. The signals will then be sent to a small computer that’s programmed to translate them into sounds. Finally, the series of sounds will be sent through wires to headphones worn by the patient. The whole process only takes less than eight milliseconds.
The researchers believe that after hearing the sounds, the brains of the patients will be alerted to any malfunction in the autonomic nervous system. Once these malfunctions are corrected, like if the tones are too erratic, the signals will be reset so the pattern is “more regular and balanced.”
Studies involving HIRREM are looking into possible applications among individuals with high blood pressure, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since these three conditions might be connected to irregular signals in the autonomic nervous system.
Last 2017, research at Wake Forest University, where the HIRREM trial is currently undergoing, revealed that the brain can identify the tones as “reflecting its own electrical activity.”
During a pilot study of 12 menopausal women who underwent the treatment, scientists discovered that it helped to greatly reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. The treatment also helped minimize symptoms like depression and insomnia. Data from the research was published in the journal Menopause. (Related: Treat hot flashes the natural way.)
For the ongoing study, 48 women will be given 20 sessions over the course of three months. The sessions will be about 90 minutes long, while the other participants will continue with standard care, like hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The symptoms of both groups will then be compared.
Haitham Hamoda, a consultant gynecologist at King’s College Hospital, noted, “This explores the theory that reflecting electrical activity in the brain may help reset the autonomic nervous system response to hot [flashes] and provide symptomatic relief for these.”
He concluded, “Other studies along similar lines have shown a beneficial effect with cognitive [behavioral] therapy in managing hot [flashes] and, therefore, there is merit in further exploring this concept.”
Natural remedies for hot flashes
If you’re suffering from hot flashes, try to find out what triggers them. The following lifestyle changes can also help:
- Don’t eat spicy foods.
- Keep an ice pack on your bedside table.
- Leave a fan on while you sleep.
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
- Lower the room temperature.
- Quit smoking.
- Sip ice water at the start of a hot flash.
- Try stress reduction techniques, like guided breathing, meditation, or yoga.
Learn more about hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause at WomensHealth.news.