Migraines Hurt Your Head Not Your Brain

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Migraines are not associated with cognitive decline according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital

20 percent of the female population is currently affected by migraines. Even though these headaches are common, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about this complex disease. This disorder has been linked to structural brain lesions and an increased risk of stroke in previous studies, but it is still unclear if migraines have other negative consequences such as dementia or cognitive decline.

The study, by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was published online on August 8, 2012 by the British Medical Journal (BMJ). “Previous studies on migraines and cognitive decline were small and unable to identify a link between the two. Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline,” explained Pamela Rist ScD, a research fellow in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, and lead author on this study.

Data from the Women’s Health Study, a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older was analyzed by the research team. In this study, data was analyzed from 6,349 women who provided information about their migraine status at baseline and then participated in cognitive testing during follow-up. Participants were classified into four groups: no history of migraine, migraine with aura (transient neurology symptoms mostly of the visual field), migraine without aura, and past history of migraine. Cognitive testing was carried out up to three times in two year intervals.

“Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of cognitive decline,” explained Rist. “This is an important finding for both physicians and patients. Patients with migraine and their treating doctors should be reassured that migraine may not have long term consequences on cognitive function.”

There is still a lot that is unknown about migraines. However, promising evidence for patients and their treating physicians is offered from this study.

To understand the consequences of migraine on the brain and to establish strategies to influence the course of the disease in order to optimize treatment strategies, more research is needed.

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