Migraine sufferers: Your brain works differently!

Migraines not only reduce the quality of life, but also lead to changes in the brain. Learn more about it today.

Migraine sufferers: Your brain works differently!

Last update: November 19, 2022

The TK Headache Report 2020 states that approximately 15 percent of the global population suffer migraine suffer, with women being more affected. After tooth decay and tension headaches, migraines are in third place in the ranking of the most common diseases. Many suffer from migraines from a young age, but this neurological disease can also appear in childhood.

people with migraines they are exposed to a high degree of suffering because symptoms such as pain, nausea and dizziness are not visible to outsiders but have a serious impact on performance and quality of life. Various neurological studies trace the history of the disease and show that sufferers were considered weak and irresponsible as early as the 18th century. They were accused of using illness as an excuse to avoid social responsibilities.

This discriminatory view has not completely disappeared to this day. the good news is that science is trying to understand the mechanisms that cause this disease. New research provides ever deeper insights: Various studies show that the brains of people with migraines function differently, not only during migraine attacks, but also in the symptom-free periods between them.

A deep understanding of this neurological disease is a prerequisite for the development of effective therapies.

Migraines are associated with changes in blood flow and metabolic activity in the cerebral cortex.

People with migraine tick differently

Migraine is a neurovascular pain syndrome of genetic origin, which is usually treated with medication. In addition, diet and lifestyle are essential in prevention: foods such as red wine, chocolate or cheese have been identified as triggers. Lack of sleep, weather changes, irregular eating habits or stress are also possible triggers. Self-observation of each patient is key, as everyone responds differently to different triggers.

Then we look at the effects of migraines on the brain: Migraine sufferers react particularly strongly to external stimuli, which is caused by the high sensitivity of nerve cells even outside the pain phase.

Changes in blood flow and metabolic activity in the cerebral cortex

Researchers from the University of California conducted a comprehensive study of migraine sufferers a few years ago and discovered anatomically remarkable aspects. It happens with migraines to changes in blood flow and metabolic activity in the cerebral cortex.

Also cortical excitability associated with cerebral hyperactivity is striking. This explains why patients are very sensitive to smells and visual stimuli during a migraine episode.

changes in the brainstem

The brainstem, the oldest part of the brain in terms of evolutionary history, is located below the diencephalon. It takes over the function of the interface between the spinal cord and other areas of the brain by transmitting ascending and descending information. Migraine sufferers experience changes in the brainstem that can lead to dizziness and nausea, among other things. The so-called migraine center in the brainstem gets more blood flow and activation, leading to hypersensitivity.

Trigeminal nerve and throbbing pain

When the trigeminal nerve is irritated, pain signals and neurotransmitters (vasoactive neuropeptides) are produced, which result in inflammatory reactions and dilation of blood vessels. This leads to the throbbing pain characteristic of migraines.

Migraine is a common neurological disorder with a complex pathophysiology ranging from hyperexcitability to certain genetic changes.

glial cells and vascular cells

Another peculiarity can be observed in migraineurs: Electrocortical signals between glial and vascular cells are altered. This neuronal excitability is an aspect seen in magnetic resonance imaging and has allowed the development of better drugs.

If you suffer from the characteristic symptoms of migraine, you should definitely get checked out.

Abnormalities in the structure of the brain

As we know, there are different types of migraine: with or without aura, migraine with brainstem aura, hemiplegic, vestibular or retinal migraine… A research team in a multi-university study made an amazing discovery: Different types of migraines cause different white and gray matter abnormalitieslesions reminiscent of cerebral infarction.


Knowing that migraineurs’ brains are different can be confusing or scary. However, these findings are essential for developing new and effective therapies and improving the quality of life of those affected. The goal is to develop a treatment that can cure this disease.

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