Although the study found a connection between brain size and the combination of migraines and depression, it did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, as one expert noted.
"We certainly know that migraine sufferers tend to have smaller brains than non-migraine sufferers. But I'm not sure this study confirms that, apart from a neurodegenerative process, the two diseases act to do anything to increase the rate of [brain shrinkage] with aging," said Dr. Dara Jamieson, an associate professor of clinical neurology and director of the headache center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City.
"The people they were imaging [with MRI] were quite old -- 66 to 96 -- and you can expect brain atrophy in that group," added Jamieson, who was not involved with the study. "Maybe there's something to be said for these disorders accelerating brain atrophy ... but to take away that because of migraine and depression that your brain is smaller is unnecessarily glum."
Study author Gudmundsson, who's also a guest researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, pointed out that those with migraines and depression may not suffer brain shrinkage since it's possible that their brains are smaller from birth.
"The clinical impact needs to be determined," he added. "We have to keep in mind that several studies have looked at migraine and cognition [thinking ability] and have not found a difference in cognition. That is reassuring."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about migraine headaches.
SOURCES: Larus Gudmundsson, Ph.D., guest researcher, U.S. National I
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