Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Relationships between stress and psychophysiological aspects of headache have often been assumed but seldom systematically demonstrated. The present study examined response patterns of 30 subjects, equally representing groups of migraine, muscle contraction headache (MCH) and low-frequency headache controls. Psychological variables assessed included the Beck Depression Inventory, a life stress scale, the Multiple Affective Adjective Checklist (MAACL), Levenson's Locus of Control Scales, and two subjective units of distress (SUDS) ratings of traffic fatality slides associated with emotional stress manipulations. Eight physiological measures (frontalis and trapezius EMG, temporal artery pulse volume, respiration frequency and amplitude, skin resistance level and conductance response, and heart rate) were monitored during a laboratory session. The 60-minute session consisted of three baselines followed by randomly presented conditions including relaxation, a mental test, and an emotional stressor involving the attempted induction of fear and anger. Physiological findings were essentially five-fold. (1) Initial baseline differences among the three groups were negligible, except for trapezius EMG. However, Tukey's post-hoc tests did not identify differences between groups. (2) Significant main effects (p < .05) for stress condition were observed for six of eight physiological variables (excluding skin resistance level and conductance response). Responses to fear and anger conditions were not differentiated. (3) Significant group differences emerged for respiration rate (p < .05). Tukey's test indicated that migraineurs' respiration rates increased during relaxation and decreased during emotional stress compared to controls who exhibited an opposite pattern. (4) A priori predictions of symptom-specificity were confirmed only for the migraine group in that during fear and anger conditions, migraineurs were significantly more dilated than MCH subjects (p < .05, p < .05, respectively). (5) Predictions related to migraine stereotypy were not supported. Significant psychological differences (p < .05) among groups emerged for MAACL hostility, Levenson's internality, two ratings of laboratory stressors and life stress. Tukey's tests indicated that, compared to controls, MCH subjects reported more hostility, less internality, and more distress associated with the laboratory stressors. Migraine and MCH groups reported experiencing greater quality and quantity of life stress than did controls. Finally, relationships among psychological and physiological measures did not appear significant. Implications of these findings for future research were discussed.