The Stanford Headache and Facial Pain Program Research


Migraine and the Gut Microbiome

Migraine is a disorder that can be accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms. Though the relationship between migraine and GI disorders remains unclear, the gut microbiota has emerged as a critical player in shaping and modulating brain function and has been shown to influence behavior, mood, anxiety, and cognition. Currently, there are very few studies on gut microbiome composition and the effects of the gut microbiota on migraine. Dr. Niushen Zhang's team is working to better understand this new frontier by identifying specific alterations that may exist in patients with migraine and finding mechanisms of action which could lead to useful targets for the treatment of migraine. To learn more about our active studies, please contact study coordinator, Stephanie Tran, at

Sunstar: The Stanford Neuroscience Headache Biorepository

At Stanford we have tremendous resources at our disposal and we are using them to explore novel approaches to understanding headache medicine. We have taken on the challenge of understanding why some patients have occasional headaches throughout their life while others go on to have headaches that become daily or almost daily, causing enormous suffering and expense to patients and their families. Through generous gifts from patients as well as other funding, we are making significant discoveries about headaches, and their treatment. We have three working groups, which are described below:

Functional imaging

Through the use of advanced imaging, some of which is only available at a few institutions around the world, we are able to see how the migraine brain processes pain and other stimuli and compare it to the brain processing of patients with other pain conditions and people without ongoing pain. We are fortunate to have the talented imaging scientist, Dr. Danielle DeSouza heading this group along with other researchers from across the Stanford Campus.

Deep phenotyping 

Deep phenotyping just means collecting tons of information about patients – far more detail than is normally gained from a doctor’s visit. We then take this detailed information and compare it with what we see in our functional imaging and -omics analysis (see below) in hopes of identifying subgroups of headache sufferers who are more likely to respond to one treatment or another or more likely to follow one clinical course or another. Yohannes Woldeamanuel, MD, a gifted scientist and clinicisan, leads our efforts to better understand the characteristics that make subgroups of headache sufferers unique.


In this part of our research, we collect fluids (blood and spinal fluid) from our amazing patients and others who want to help us better understand headache. The information we extract from these fluids, when combined with the imaging and phenotyping described above will lead us to identifying patients who are at risk or are more likely to respond to a treatment, or even to have a different diagnosis than what they may have thought or  been told.