But scientists aren't sure which comes first
MONDAY, Nov. 19 (HealthDay News) -- People who suffer from repeated migraines have a thickening in an area of their brains that's involved in processing pain, researchers report.
But exactly what this means, or whether the migraines or the brain-thickening come first, is not yet clear.
"We don't know if it's a cause or a consequence" of migraines, said study senior author Dr. Nouchine Hadjikhani, an associate professor of radiology at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, affiliated with both the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
"What we need is more people and also more time points. If we could follow people over a few years of migraines and see if we can see changes going one direction or the other, that would be something in the direction of an answer," she said. "For the moment, we have one snapshot in time. We see a difference. We don't know why."
"The authors suggested that it may be that repeated attacks of migraine lead to the changes in the brain, although another possibility is that these alterations in the brain structure predispose to migraine," added Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Clinic in New York City. "I have a bias in favor of the hypothesis they present -- that recurrent migraines alter the brain --- because I want to believe that if patients get treated with preventive medication and acute treatments, maybe this thickening could be prevented."
The study is published in the Nov. 20 issue of Neurology.
Some 28 million Americans suffer from migraines, debilitating headaches that usually strike on one side of a person's head and can also involve nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. Some migraines are accompanied by "aura," or changes in vision.
Previous researchers have noted changes in the frontal and temporal cortices of the brain in individua
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