Lasting Effects of Migraines

A recent study reveals that migraines act as mini strokes that can have a lasting impact on the brain. Scientists at the University of Rochester in New York and a team at the Danish pharmaceutical group Novo Noridsk have conducted studies that suggesst Migraines may have a lasting effect on the brain. Based on studies with mice, these scientists discovered that during a migraine, brain cells underwent change in the cortical spreading depression process that is similar to that of a stroke or head trauma. This left parts of the brain starved for oxygen and altered in damaging ways.

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.


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