Migraine headaches can be debilitating and cause a broad range of symptoms among those who experience them.
Researchers are still working to understand the brain changes that may be caused or influenced by migraine.
A recent study looked at specific brain differences found among migraine sufferers.
Researchers shared the study, which hasn’t been published yet in a peer-reviewed journal, at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting.
The researchers said they found that among people with migraine, there were distinct enlarged perivascular spaces in the brain.
Understanding the impact of migraine
MigraineTrusted Source is a complex condition that often involves severe headaches.
These headaches can be painful and debilitating. People may have triggers that bring on migraine headaches, such as stress, smoking, or changes in the weather.
Dr. Achillefs Ntranos, a neurologist trained at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and Mount Sinai in New York, and now practices in Beverly Hills, California, explained to Medical News Today:
“Migraines are a neurological disorder that affects the brain and can cause a range of symptoms in addition to severe headache pain. These symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smells. Some people also experience an aura before the headache, which can include visual disturbances such as seeing flashing lights or blind spots. Migraines can vary in frequency and intensity, with some people experiencing them occasionally and others having them multiple times per week.”
Treatment for migraine may involve the use of medications and lifestyle modifications.
However, there is much about migraine causes and brain changes that experts still don’t understand.
Researchers are still working to understand the underlying mechanisms behind migraine, including the changes they can observe in the brain.
Examining the brains of people with migraine
When researchers looked at each of these components, they found that participants with migraine had enlarged perivascular spaces in a specific area of the brain called the centrum semiovale, the central area of white matter.
These enlarged perivascular spaces were further associated with more severe white matter hyperintensities among participants with migraine.
“The study found a correlation between the quantity of enlarged perivascular spaces in the centrum semiovale and the severity of white matter hyperintensities in the brain,” Ntranos noted. “These findings add to our understanding of the potential structural changes in the brain associated with migraines.”
Xu said he was fascinated by the study’s results because it could bring researchers closer to understanding the underlying mechanisms of migraine:
“These findings are exciting because they suggest some kind of disruption in the waste clearance system of the brain in migraine; previous studies show many neurological disorders are associated with increased PVS. Whether these changes cause migraine to develop OR are a result of migraine is still unclear, as is the exact mechanism behind how migraine works.”
Limitations and continued research
This study only provides a limited amount of data and indicates the need for further research.
For example, looking at the brain differences does not prove that migraine causes these changes or vice versa. The study also only included a limited number of participants, so larger studies will likely be needed to confirm its findings.
Xu noted a few areas for continued research:
“Our goal is to continue using ultra-high field 7T MRI for additional studies, this time with larger populations of patients, longer follow-up periods, and more migraine types to confirm our findings; we hope that with additional studies, we can better understand what exactly the relationship is between these changes and migraine.”
He further explained that further understanding in this area will ideally improve outcomes for those who experience migraine:
“Hopefully, as we learn more about migraine and understand more about the underlying pathophysiology, we might even be able to use these changes as biomarkers to better diagnose migraine and choose medications that will best help treat and prevent migraine in these patients.”