Aberration in Structure of Brain Artery Responsible For Migraines: New Study

Brain Neuron

 

Incomplete Brain Arterial Network Found In Migraineurs (1)

Researchers from University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine are suggesting based on their recent study, that the network of arteries that supply blood to the brain is incomplete in those who suffer migraines. This impairs and creates asymmetries in cerebral blood flow that act as triggers for migraines.

The network of cerebral arteries consists of a series of connections between major arteries. This network with it’s connections is called ‘Circle of Willis’. The study found a strong association between incomplete network connections in the Circle of Willis thus depriving certain parts of the brain of blood flow and oxygen.

As per lead author of the study, Brett Cucchiara, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology, “People with migraine actually have differences in the structure of their blood vessels – this is something you are born with. These differences seem to be associated with changes in blood flow in the brain, and it’s possible that these changes may trigger migraine, which may explain why some people, for instance, notice that dehydration triggers their headaches.” (2)

The study also suggested that blood vessels in the brain played a rather different role in migraine condition than what was earlier believed. The structural aberration in blood supply caused by an incomplete Circle of Willis also increases a person’s susceptibility to abnormal neural activity and electrical pulse generation in the brain thus triggering migraines.

The study examined 170 people from three groups.

  • Group 1: A control group with no migraines or headaches
  • Group 2: Those suffering from migraines with aura
  • Group 3: Those with migraines without aura

A good percentage of persons in Groups 2 and 3 were found to have a common ground of incomplete Circle of Willis when compared to the control group.

MRI angiography was employed to examine blood vessel structure and a noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging method called Arterial Spin Labeling (ASL) was used to measure changes in cerebral blood flow during the study.

According to senior author, John Detre, MD, Professor of Neurology and Radiology, “Abnormalities in both the circle of Willis and blood flow were most prominent in the back of the brain, where the visual cortex is located. This may help explain why the most common migraine auras consist of visual symptoms such as seeing distortions, spots, or wavy lines.” (3)

The study suggests that at some point in the future more work on the role of the Circle of Willis will help design personalized treatment and therapy for patients.

SOURCES:

  1. Image credits: FreeDigitialPhotos.net: Image by Renjith krishnan; Web July 2013; http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/neuron-photo-p186134
  2. Migraines Associated With Variations in Structure of Brain Arteries; Science Daily News; Web July 2013; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130726191731.htm
  3. Abnormal Arteries May Trigger Migraines; Nationalpainreport.com; Web July 2013; http://americannewsreport.com/nationalpainreport/abnormal-arteries-may-trigger-migraines-8821061.html

DETAILS OF THE STUDY MAY BE HAD AT PLOS ONE:

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Brain Freeze and Migraines: A Shared Mechanism At Play

Spoon in a large dollop of ice cream after you enter the house on a warm summer day and you know you are in trouble. The brain freeze will make you repent the haste almost immediately. Same with guzzling down a chilled soda. The sensation on the upper palate almost stops you in your tracks in a very uncomfortable way. Turns out, the mechanism involved in brain freeze is also at play during any migraine episode. (1)

Change in Brain’s Blood Flow Similar in Brain Freeze and a Migraine (2)

It is believed a brain freeze is an experience brought on by other experiences that are interpreted by the brain as traumatic and are often suffered by soldiers who have been close to explosions or have had combat injuries. One link between the brain freeze and the events in the onslaught of a migraine is the way there occurs a change in the blood flow of the brain.

Researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System, the National University of Ireland Galway, Harvard Medical School and the the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System have observed in the experiments conducted in their study that sudden headache seems to be triggered by an abrupt increase in blood flow in the anterior cerebral artery and disappears when this artery constricts.

In the study the researchers observed 13 healthy adults whose cerebral blood flow was monitored using transcranial Doppler as they sipped ice water with a straw on their upper palate. This was done in order to have an onset of brain freeze. Next their cranial blood flow was noted using the same tool when they were made to sip water of room temperature in the same way. The volunteers were made to signal the onset and the dissipation of the brain freeze. The observations showed that one particular artery, called the anterior cerebral artery, dilated rapidly and flooded the brain with blood in conjunction to when the volunteers felt pain. Soon after this dilation occurred, the same vessel constricted as the volunteers’ pain receded.

As per the study lead Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School, “The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. It’s fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm. But the brain is a closed structure, so the sudden influx of blood could raise pressure and induce pain. The following vasoconstriction may be a way to bring pressure down in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.” (3)

Serrador has pointed that similar changes in blood flow is noticeable in those who have migraines during a migraine attack or in those with post-traumatic headaches. This provides avenues for pharmaceutical companies to work on a drug that targets on areas based on the finding of this study, thus bringing about a change in the course of migraines and certain headache types.

SOURCES:

  1. Changes in Brain’s Blood Flow Could Cause ‘Brain Freeze’; Science Daily News; April 2012; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120422231742.htm
  2. Image by Victor Habbick; Freedigitalphotos.net; April 2012; http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=4036
  3. Changes in Brain’s Blood Flow Could Cause ‘Brain Freeze’; American Physiological Society – Onsite Newsroom; April 2012; http://www.the-aps.org/mm/hp/Audiences/Public-Press/For-the-Press/releases/12/15.html

 

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