Cortex Area of Brain Thicker in People with Migraine

Are these changes part of the cause of Migraine attacks, or are they the result of repetitive Migraine attacks?

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

A study published in the November 20, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, indicates that people with Migraines have differences in part of the cortex, an area of the brain that helps process sensory information, including pain. The study found that part of the cortex area of the brain is thicker in people with Migraine than in people who do not have the neurological disease.

“Repeated Migraine attacks may lead to, or be the result of, these structural changes in the brain... Most of these people had been suffering from Migraines since childhood, so the long-term overstimulation of the sensory fields in the cortex could explain these changes. It’s also possible that people who develop Migraines are naturally more sensitive to stimulation...

This may explain why people with Migraines often also have other pain disorders such as back pain, jaw pain, and other sensory problems such as allodynia, where the skin becomes so sensitive that even a gentle breeze can be painful.”

study author Nouchine Hadjikhani, MD
Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston

Background:
Migraine disease, for some Migraineurs, means only occasional and easily treated Migraine attacks. For others, Migraine is a life-long chronic disease, and Migraine attacks have a quit significant impact on their lives. Questions abound about whether Migraine attacks cause serious and /or permanent changes in the brain.

This study is difficult to explain without using some medical terminology about the brain and its functions. Please see the bottom of the article for some definitions.**

The thickness of the cerebral cortex varies with the SSC being one of the thinnest regions in the brain. Recent studies have shown decreases in thickness decreases in patients with neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease. Another study by the same researchers as this study reported changes in the visual cortex of Migraineurs. A question this raises is whether the changes are the result or cause of mechanisms in the central nervous system. Understanding these changes may hold a key to better understanding Migraine and other neurological diseases, and by extension, the development of better treatments.

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