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Complex Migraine Is the Verdict For Reporter Serene Branson

As folks watched their news last night, they were probably more than taken aback when perky reporter Serene Branson appeared to be giving her report on the Grammy’s in incomprehensible jibberish. Was she high on drugs? Did she have a stroke? What was going on?!

After this report, the word was sent out that this reporter suffers from complex migraines. Complex migraine refers to a special type of migraine with aura where marked neurological symptoms occur that can mimic a stroke. Some people also refer to these types of attacks as “complicated migraine” when the symptoms last for hours or even days.

Most people are familiar with migraine auras where you can see colored balls, sparkly lights, or zigzag lines, or may have some numbness or weakness. In complex migraine, the symptoms are often more profound and frightening for both the patient and those around them. Developing problems with speech or confusion are often unrecognized as migraine auras, especially when headache is minor or absent during attacks. Sometimes, like this reporter, sufferers are unaware that anything unusual is happening during a complex migraine.

We had a terrific nurse in my office who occasionally experienced complex migraines that resulted in speech problems and confusion. She had no headache with this and didn’t recognize that anything was wrong during her attacks other than people looked at her funny. She’d cheerfully try explaining information to patients who would become baffled and wonder what was going on. We soon learned to recognize the start of these attacks to keep her in the office and get her treatment until she was back to herself.

If you have an up-to-date migraine book, you probably won’t find the term complex migraine in the index. Headache experts have decided that the term complex migraine shouldn’t be used anymore and simply refer to these migraines as migraine with aura or sometimes complicated aura. If you have migraine attacks with complex auras, like this reporter or my nurse, it’s important to tell your doctor so you can get effective treatment.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    9 years ago

    Dr Marcus, thank you for treating your nurse so kindly. As frustrating as it is for others when this happens, it’s even more so for the patient. I know some Migraine preventives can have this as a side effect. Someday I would love to see a list of them! I’ve often wondered if my own problems are truly Migraine related or as a result of the medication I was taking. The attacks were very profound and scary and not always associated with a full blown Migraine attack. Thankfully it’s been some time since my last bad attack where I truly couldn’t speak at all. Coincidentally(?) I quit my preventive about that same time the aphasia stopped happening.

  • gary
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed as having Complicated Complex Migraines by Massachusetts General Hospital. I could not even do the most simple things , Speech, threading a nut on to a bolt, etc.
    My entire left side was paralyzed numb. I thought I was having a stroke. Very scary especially since my wife was in the ER with me watching this go on. I have since been chasing the right med. combos that will work. Exhausting ugh. I LOVE THIS SITE THANK YOU!! I’m not alone

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