Good news: Migraines hurt your head but not your brain

Migraines currently affect about 20 percent of the female population, and while these headaches are common, there are many unanswered questions surrounding this complex disease. Previous studies have linked this disorder to an increased risk of stroke and structural brain lesions, but it has remained unclear whether migraines had other negative consequences such as dementia or cognitive decline. According to new research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), migraines are not associated with cognitive decline.

This study is published online by the (BMJ) on August 8, 2012. "Previous studies on migraines and cognitive decline were small and unable to identify a link between the two. Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline," explained Pamela Rist ScD, a research fellow in the Division of at BWH, and lead author on this study.

The research team analyzed data from the Women's Health Study, a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older. In this study, researchers analyzed data from 6,349 women who provided information about migraine status at baseline and then participated in cognitive testing during follow-up. Participants were classified into four groups: no history of migraine, migraine with aura (transient neurology symptoms mostly of the visual field), migraine without aura, and past history of migraine. Cognitive testing was carried out in two year intervals up to three times.

"Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of ," explained Rist. "This is an important finding for both physicians and patients. Patients with migraine and their treating doctors should be reassured that migraine may not have long term consequences on cognitive function."

There is still a lot that is unknown about migraines. However this study offers promising evidence for patients and their treating physicians. More research needs to be done to understand the consequences of migraine on the brain and to establish strategies to influence the course of the disease in order to optimize treatment strategies.

Related Stories

Migraine linked to increased risk of depression in women

Feb 22, 2012

New research suggests women who have migraine or have had them in the past are at an increased risk for developing depression compared to women who have never had migraine. The study was released today and will be presented ...

Does migraine protect your memory?

Apr 23, 2007

Women with a lifetime history of migraine showed less of a performance decline over time on cognitive tests than women who didn’t have migraines. Researchers say medications for migraine, diet and behavior changes may ...

Recommended for you

Two expats die of MERS in Saudi commercial hub

21 hours ago

Two foreigners died of MERS in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the health ministry said Saturday, as fears rise over the spreading respiratory virus in the kingdom's commercial hub.

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

21 hours ago

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

Apr 19, 2014

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

User comments