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Why Light Hurts During Migraines
Date:1/10/2010

Researchers discover where pain, information pathways converge in brain

SUNDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers believe they know why light exacerbates the already debilitating pain of migraines, even in some blind people.

A report published online Jan. 10 in Nature Neuroscience reveals how visual and pain pathways in the brain converge to produce this phenomenon.

Although the findings are unlikely to help migraine patients in the near future, "this gives us a little better insight as to the theory and mechanism behind migraine," said Dr. Michael Palm, an assistant professor of neuroscience and experimental therapeutics and internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, College Station, and director of the Parkinson's and Headache programs at Texas Brain and Spine Institute in Bryan.

"We are making progress in understanding this phenomenon," he said.

The Boston-based researchers report there are cells in a part of the brain called the thalamus "where information from the visual system and information from the pain system converge, and that anatomic convergence provides the first available explanation for how it could be that light makes pain worse," added Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center and professor of neurology and epidemiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

About 85 percent to 90 percent of all migraine sufferers report having photophobia, which is when light makes the pain worse, said study senior author Rami Burstein, an associate professor of anesthesia and neuroscience at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"We had no clue in the world where in the world light and pain talk to each other in the brain," Burstein said. "They have completely different pathways in the brain."

"For light to make pain, those pathways would have to con
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