Migraine Researchers Connect Brain Abnormalities in Cortex to Migraine

A small Migraine research study may offer an important building block to help researchers better understand the pathophysiology of Migraine Disease.

Italian researchers employed a different method of examining information that had been uncovered in previous research studies about the brains of people living with Migraine. By using surface-based MRI to examine the brains of study participants and specially developed software for analyzing the MRI results, the researchers were able to measure the patients’ cortical thickness and identify abnormalities in the cortical region of their brains.

Migraine ResearchThe researchers learned that Migraineurs had less cortical thickness than the control group. Further, in the area of the cortex that specifically relates to the processing of pain, Migraineurs had less overall surface area.

Migraineurs also had white matter hyperintensities on their brains more frequently than the control group. These abnormalities may be the result of either predisposition or disease-related processes. The lead researcher believes the abnormalities are more likely attributable to a predisposition that makes Migraine patients more susceptible to pain and abnormal processing of painful stimuli. If this could be confirmed by building on this research it would give us important information about Migraine pathophysiology, which could lead to much better treatment and prevention options.

We already have a dramatically altered understanding of Migraine pathophysiology as compared to just 25-30 years ago. Experts used to believe Migraines were attributable to the expansion and contraction of blood vessels in the brain. This theory is known as the Vascular Theory of Migraine. Based on increasingly sophisticated research utilizing state of the art imaging we now know that while vascular changes usually occur during a Migraine attack, not every patient experiences them. Experts no longer believe vascular changes play a primary role in the Migraine process.

This research team will continue to examine the Migraine patients who were studied in hopes of determining whether the abnormalities they initially observed stay the same or change and at what rate.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
1. Roberta Messina, MD, Maria A. Rocca, MD, Bruno Colombo, MD, Paola Valsasina, MSc, Mark A. Horsfield, PhD, Massimilano Copetti, PhD, Andrea Falini, MD, Giancarlo Comi, MD and Massimo Filippi, MD, "Cortical Abnormalities in Patients with Migraine: A Surface-based Analysis," Radiology, Published online before print March 26, 2013, doi: 10.1148/radiol.13122004. 2. Andrew Charles. "Pathophysiology of Migraine." Scottsdale Headache Symposium. November, 2012.


View Comments (10)
  • mycrazymigrainelife
    6 years ago

    This article is so informing. Every time i see some new research being done, i get excited! It is interesting that the surface area that processes pain is smaller/thinner. I think it makes sense considering that it is smaller and probably therefore more sensitive to painful stimuli. Maybe then, thickness of the brain is related to pain tolerance. This could maybe eventually explain the allodynia associated with migraine attacks. I have noticed that my pain threshold is a bit lower than most peoples and after living with chronic migraine for one year my pain tolerance has decreased and i find it harder and harder to handle intense pain. My body gets so weak and fatigued after many cycles of daily migraine.

  • Diana-Lee author
    6 years ago

    It’s exciting to me, too. Definitely gives me renewed hope to see this amazing work being done.

  • Vicki
    6 years ago

    “The lead researcher believes the abnormalities are more likely attributable to a predisposition that makes Migraine patients more susceptible to pain and abnormal processing of painful stimuli.”

    Does this mean that our threshold of pain might be lower than other people’s?

  • Diana-Lee author
    6 years ago

    I think it could mean that. It seems to me that most Migraineurs have a lower pain threshold, but then actually have a pretty high tolerance for pain.

  • lara
    6 years ago

    “Migraineurs also had white matter hyperintensities on their brains more frequently than the control group. ”

    Is this related to the white (benign) lesions on the brain spotted after migraines or is this something else?

    Also, in a way, this sort of makes sense regarding pain processing, doesn’t it? The vascular theory never REALLY made all that much sense considering the amount pain involved and the stages of a migraine. I mean, it’s a nice, neat package but not logical and as the article stated, it explains why blood pressure medication does not work in treating some migraines.

  • Diana-Lee author
    6 years ago

    Yes, they’re basically just using different terms to refer to the same thing with the white matter hypersensitivities / lesions info. I think this research team just preferred that phrase, for whatever reason.

    It does make sense. The Vascular Theory certainly does sound appealing, but I think we’d all be hard pressed to really think vascular changes could impact the number of senses and cause the wide variety of symptoms we see in Migraine.

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!

  • Peachypitbull
    6 years ago

    Great article. This adds validity to those if us that get migraines that we aren’t faking our condition. It shows that a migraine attack is truly out of our control and how a migraine brain is wired

  • Diana-Lee author
    6 years ago

    Absolutely! Every time we learn more, even something seemingly small, about what goes on in our bodies during a migraine and why, we have more ammunition for educating not only patients, but the public, as well.

  • 6 years ago

    Great article Diana and fascinating research. It makes me more optimistic that we will uncover the real pathophysiology of migraine and be on the way to truly effective treatments in our lifetimes.

  • Diana-Lee author
    6 years ago

    Thank you, MJ. I so agree. Every study like this makes me so encouraged that some brilliant researchers are making important progress.

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