The team of neuroscientists, led by Maiken Nedergaard, utilized two newly developed imaging techniques to understand the energy allocation process that affects the brain during a migraine. The underlying phenomenon known as "cortical spreading depression" disrupts the delicate chemical balance in the brain and requires a huge amount of energy to restore.
So while some parts of the brain are getting increased blood flow and oxygen, other parts are being deprived of oxygen, also known as hypoxia. The end result is deterioration in the signaling structures of brain cells, similar to a mini stroke or severe head injury.
According to Nedergaard, for those who suffer from migraines with aura, the visual disturbance may be indicative that parts of the brain are short on oxygen. The results of this study should alert both patients and doctors to shift emphasis from treating migraine symptoms to preventing their occurrence entirely.