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Migraines linked to brain abnormalities

Tuesday 26th March 2013
Image: Lancet
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Migraines could be related to brain abnormalities present from birth, a new study has suggested.

The intense throbbing headaches can sometimes be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extra sensitivity to light. Some even experience a change in visual or sensory function that occurs either just before or during the migraine.

According to the World Health Organization, around 300 million people suffer from migraines worldwide.

Previous research on patients showed atrophy of cortical regions in the brain relating to the processing of pain, which was possibly due to the chronic stimulation of such areas.

The study, published in the journal Radiography, was conducted by researchers in Italy, who used a surface-based MRI method to measure cortical thickness.

Massimo Filippi, MD, director of the Neuroimaging Research Unit at the University Ospedale San Raffaele and professor of neurology at the University Vita-Salute's San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, said: "For the first time, we assessed cortical thickness and surface area abnormalities in patients with migraine, which are two components of cortical volume that provide different and complementary pieces of information."

Dr Filippi and his team used MRU to acquire T2-weighted and 3-D T1-weighted brain images from 63 migraine patients and 18 healthy subjects.

They found that the cortical thickness surface area in regions of the brain associated with pain processing were significantly reduced when compared to those without migraines.

Dr Filippi added: "The most important finding of our study was that cortical abnormalities that occur in patients with migraine are a result of the balance between an intrinsic predisposition, as suggested by cortical surface area modification, and disease-related processes, as indicated by cortical thickness abnormalities."

He continued by stating that accurately measuring cortical abnormalities could help better characterise migraine patients and improve understanding of the processes behind the condition.

The researchers also stressed that it was not fully understood as to whether the cortical abnormalities were the result of repeated migraine attacks or sign of predisposition to the condition.

Written by James Puckle

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