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Migraine May Permanently Change Brain Structure

Study finds increased risk of white-matter lesions (August 28)

Migraine may have long-lasting effects on the brain’s structure, according to a study published online in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

“Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain,” said author Messoud Ashina, MD, PhD, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”

The study found that migraine increased the risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities, and altered brain volume compared with people without the disorder. The association was even stronger in those with migraine with aura.

For the meta-analysis, researchers reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to see whether people who experienced migraine or migraine with aura had an increased risk of brain lesions, silent abnormalities, or brain-volume changes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans compared with those without the conditions.

The results showed that migraine with aura increased the risk of white-matter brain lesions by 68% and that migraine with no aura increased the risk by 34%, compared with the absence of migraine. The risk for infarct-like abnormalities increased by 44% for those with migraine with aura compared with those without aura. Brain-volume changes were more common in people with migraine and migraine with aura than in those with no migraine.

“Migraine affects about 10% to 15% of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational, and social burden,” said Ashina. “We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain-structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.”

Source: AAN; August 28, 2013.

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