A migraine headache is more fearsome than the headaches you might suffer if you’re dehydrated or had one too many glasses of wine. Migraines can be completely debilitating, causing intense pain, sensitivity to light, movement and sound, and in some cases nausea and vomiting. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from migraines.
Why do some people suffer from migraines while others don’t? Is it a difference in brain function? A new MRI study from the Neuroimaging Research Unit at the University Ospedale San Raffaele in Italy has discovered this to be the case.
Dr. Massimo Filippi, the director of the study, and his team assessed cortical (that’s the outer layer of the brain, or the cortex) thickness using surface-based MR Imaging.
“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,” said Dr. Filippi. “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.”
The study found that migraine sufferers have a significantly reduced cortical thickness, as well as reduced surface area of the cortex, particularly in areas related to experiencing pain.
“Whether the abnormalities are a consequence of the repetition of migraine attacks or represent an anatomical signature that predisposes to the development of the disease is still debated,” says Dr. Filippi. “In my opinion, they might contribute to make migraine patients more susceptible to pain and to an abnormal processing of painful conditions and stimuli.”
The study is published in Radiology.