Migraine may change brain’s structure permanently, risk stronger in migraine with aura

By: Devon Andre | Brain Function | Wednesday, March 09, 2016 - 01:30 PM

migraine with auraMigraine may change the brain’s structure permanently and the risk is stronger in migraine with aura. Study author Messoud Ashina said, “Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain. Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”

Migraines were found to raise the risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities, and alter brain volume – compared to individuals without migraine. The association was even higher in those who suffer from migraine with aura.

The meta-analysis reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to determine whether patients with migraine or patients with migraine with aura have a higher risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities, and changes in brain volume. MRI scans were conducted to compare the groups.

Migraine with aura increased the risk of abnormal white matter by 68 percent, and migraine without aura raised it by 34 percent, in comparison to those without any migraine disorder. Infarct-like abnormalities were 44 percent higher in migraine with aura, compared to those without aura. Lastly, brain volume changes were similar in both migraine sufferers and migraine with aura sufferers.

Ashina added, “Migraine affects about 10 to 15 percent of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational, and social burden. We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.”

The findings were published in Neurology.

Migraines may be triggered due to inconsistent blood flow in brain arteries

A study published in PLOS ONE found that migraines may be triggered due to inconsistent blood flow to the brain arteries. The findings come from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania who wished to uncover the set of connections between major arteries that protect the supply of blood to the brain. This is known as the “circle of Willis.”

The researchers studied three groups: 53 individuals without headaches, 56 with migraine with aura, and 61 with just migraine.

The researchers measured blood flow using MRI scans and magnetic resonance angiography.

Seventy-three percent of migraine with aura sufferers had incomplete circle of Willis, along with 67 percent of migraine sufferers without aura. Only 51 percent of controls had incomplete circle of Willis.

Lead researcher Dr. Brett Cucchiara said, “People with migraine actually have differences in the structure of their blood vessels – this is something you are born with. These differences seem to be associated with changes in blood flow in the brain, and it’s possible that these changes may trigger migraine, which may explain why some people, for instance, notice that dehydration triggers their headaches.”

Study senior author Dr. John Detre added, “Abnormalities in both the circle of Willis and blood flow were most prominent in the back of the brain, where the visual cortex is located.”

The researchers recommend additional research, as they consider the link they uncovered to be just one out of several factors that can contribute to migraine.

Related Reading:

Migraine in women may increase depression risk, lower breast cancer risk

Migraine in women may increase the risk of depression but, on the other hand, lower breast cancer risk. Women with migraines have a higher risk of developing depression, compared to women who have never experienced migraines. Continue reading…

Migraine with aura causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment

Migraine with aura is a disabling primary headache disorder and is ranked by the World Health Organization as number 19 of diseases that cause disability. Some researchers believe that migraine with aura is actually a bunch of diseases put into one but generally migraines are considered one disease and divided into two subtypes: migraine without aura and migraine with aura. Continue reading…


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