Migraine, Comorbid Depression & Brain Volume Research

According to a very small study in the journal Neurology there are observable differences in the brains of people living with comorbid Migraine Disease and Major Depressive Disorder. Patients with both conditions were observed to have smaller brain volume than that of people living with just one these conditions or neither condition.1

toc01People living with Migraine are twice as likely as non-Migraineurs to also experience Major Depressive Disorder. Research has established that Migraine increases the risk of depression and depression increases the risk of Migraine. We also know that treating both conditions in patients experiencing both improves outcomes over treating just one condition alone.

Knowing that brain differences have been observed separately in Migraineurs and in patients living with depression, these researchers wanted to learn more about the brains of people living with both conditions.

Data from the AGES-Reykjavik Study was used to learn more about the brains of older people living with comorbid Migraine and Major Depressive Disorder in this study. The original Reykjavik Study was established in Iceland in 1967 to look at cardiovascular disease. The AGES-Reykjavik Study was later initiated to look at the surviving population from the original Reykjavik Study and examine risk factors, genetic susceptibility and environmental factors in relation to disease and disability in old age.

Interesting aspects of this research:

  • Patients with comorbid Migraine and Major Depressive Disorder had reduced total brain volume and also had less white matter volume and gray matter volume than others.
  • The observed brain volume difference for patients with comorbid Migraine and depression was the same when researchers broke the study subjects down according to diagnosis of Migraine with Aura or Migraine without Aura.
  • No interaction between non-Migraine headache and depression was observed by the researchers.
  • Reduced brain volume might be an indication of cognitive decline, though the researchers note other studies have found no cognitive decline associated with Migraine.
  • The researchers speculate the combination of Migraine and Major Depressive Disorder and the observed brain differences might constitute a distinct condition requiring unique treatment from the way either condition is treated on its own.
  • They believe more research is needed with larger populations to confirm their findings and determine what mechanism leads to reduced brain volume in patients with comorbid Migraine and Major Depressive Disorder.

Any questions about this research? Please share them in the comments.

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