Expert Answer: Migraine and memory loss
Posted by Dr Whyte—December 5th, 2011

Question: “Can migraine cause memory loss? Sometimes I have a migraine and can’t remember the night before…”

Many migraineurs suffer with memory loss or some type of cognitive dysfunction during a migraine attack.

And why not? Migraine symptoms are neurological probably caused by the brain cortex….and not anywhere in the brain specifically. That accounts for the multitude of symptoms that can occur during a migraine: light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, smell sensitivity, nausea, etc. There are plenty of studies out there regarding cognitive issues during migraine but nothing that relates to any particular type of cognitive dysfunction consistently. A recent study looked at the impact of migraine on memory loss following an attack. The only thing that was significant was that migraineurs showed impairment in global-visual processing in the 2 days following an attack but not in attention or working memory.

There is another neurological disorder called transient global amnesia where patients will have complete amnesia lasting hours without other symptoms. It is usually attributed to either migraine, seizure, or transient ischemic attack (the technical term for “mini-stroke). Having migraine is a significant risk factor for transient global amnesia so they are thought to be related.

The good news is that the effects of having migraine do not show any effect on cognitive function in the long term.

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