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.


  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


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Migraine With Aura Pegs Risk For All Stroke Types In Women


Women Migraineurs Experiencing Aura Are At An Increased Risk Of Suffering All Stroke Types (1)

A research that studied 28,000 women has found that such women as those who experience migraines with aura – either visual or sensational and non-visual are at a significantly increased risk of suffering from all types of strokes (ischemic or hemorrhagic ) as those compared to women who do not experience migraines. The findings of the study are to be presented at the International Headache Congress 2013 at Boston. (2)

Ischemic strokes occur when there is a blockage causing reduced blood supply to any part of the brain leading to brain cell and tissue death. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain ruptures and causes bleeding in the brain.

Visual aura in migraineurs is a neurological phenomenon typified by visual aberrations or distortions such as perceiving an image as partly broken or with zigzag lines, experiencing blind spots, having a vision festered with sparks or flashing and shimmering lights, inability to gauge distance or margin between two objects. It could involve seeing of wavy lines and experiencing hallucinations. (3)

Aura a migraineur may suffer from may be non-visual in nature such as experiencing vertigo, numbness of tongue, feeling pins and needles on the palms and face or even experiencing of motor debility.

According to Dr. Tobias Kurth, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston , “Migraine with aura has been consistently linked with increased risk of ischemic stroke and there is also some evidence that it increases risk of hemorrhagic stroke. In this study we sought to determine the importance of migraine with aura in stroke occurrence relative to other stroke risk factors” (4)

The following observations were made during the study:


Migraineurs With Aura

Cardiovascular Patients

Base Year or Year 0 1435 0
Year 15 1435 528 strokes:

  • 430 Ischemic
  • 96 Hemorrhagic
  • 02 Unknown strokes

It was concluded in the news release that for total, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, migraine with aura was a strong relative contributor.

Caution: The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.


  1. Image Credit: Woman Holding Her Head; Photographer: Marin; FreeDigitalPhotos.net; http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?id=100173635
  2. Migraine With Aura May Be Linked to All Stroke Types; Medicinet.com; Web June 2013; http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=170823
  3. Migraines With Aura, Chapter 5, Page 34; Migraines For The Informed Woman by Mamta Singh; ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1; June 2013; http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174
  4. Migraine With Aura May Be Linked to All Stroke Types; WebMD.com; Web June 2013; http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/news/20130626/migraine-with-aura-may-be-linked-to-all-stroke-types

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Bridging the Gaping Divide With Pain Self-management Tools

Most migraineurs are aware that the medical fraternity has yet not arrived at the cause of migraines. We know of triggers and the way the pain unfolds or what happens inside of the brain hours before, during and after a migraine episode but are still clueless about what causes migraines and why or how the pain stops.

Though a good number of migraineurs do consult a ‘migraine specialist’ or a ‘headache specialist’ after enduring the onslaught of merciless pain years after they first experienced their episodes, they often take back selective important tips back from the doctor’s office. A relatively new program called painACTION.com developed by Inflexxion now offers many tools to the migraineur that can help them manage their symptoms better when they are out of the doctor’s office and back into their lives.

Better Pain Management With Online Self-help Application (1)

This free and non-promotional program is available online and is believed to be especially beneficial to those who are chronic migraineurs. The tool was studied by researchers at Inflexxion using 185 participants to test the clinical efficacy of this web-based program. The program uses various symptom-based management techniques and offers a wide range of tips on relaxation and on getting support groups, doing daily activities to do etc.

It was observed that those who used the program reported better stress and pain management skills, were more confident in their ability to handle an episode. The study as well as it’s findings were reported in the medical journal The Journal of Head and Face Pain, titled ‘A Randomized Trial of a Web-based Intervention to Improve Migraine Self-Management and Coping’. (2)

According to the lead author and researcher, Jonas Bromberg, PsyD, Director of Health Communications and Senior Research Scientist at Inflexxion, “Self-management training should help patients learn how to identify, avoid, and manage headache triggers, and learn to perform other essential prevention, management, and coping behaviors. The integration of behavioral support in the medical care of migraine is essential in helping people with migraine to manage their condition more effectively, safely manage their prescription pain medications, avoid disease progression, and reduce the high cost of migraine and migraine-related disability to individuals and society.” (3)

This free online program is particularly beneficial to those who live and work in areas which do not have easy or ready access to neurologists, mental health support services or behavioural experts.


  1. Image by Jeroen van Oostrom; Freedigitalphotos.net; February 2012;  http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=413
  2. Technical report of the study may be accessed at: A Randomized Trial of a Web-Based Intervention to Improve Migraine Self-Management and Coping; Wiley Online Library; February 2012; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2011.02031.x/abstract
  3. Migraine Self-Management Improved And Migraine-Related Psychological Distress Reduced By painACTION.com; Medi Lexicon News; February 2012; http://www.medilexicon.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=241832

The web-based program may be accessed through this link: http://painaction.com/

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Coenzyme Q10 and Migraines


Extensive researches concluded in 2005, that giving migraineurs supplements of the Coenzyme Q10 proved beneficial in reducing migraine instances and duration. Coenzyme Q10 is a powerful antioxidant that protects us from free radicals and thereby reduces damage caused to heart through food and environmental factors. It also retards ageing and has been found beneficial to not just migraineurs but also to AIDS and cancer patients as it steps up the body’s immune system functioning. It is also known with the chemical names of benzoquinone and ubiquinone. 

Some foods which are rich in Coenzyme Q10 are:

Foods rich in Coenzyme 10:

  1. Mackerel
  2. Herring
  3. Pork
  4. Peanut Oil
  5. Canola Oil
  6. Chicken Legs
  7. Sesame Seeds

Be careful not to include those food items that you may be allergic to.

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Endorphins Enable Enhanced Endurance

Hi on a beautiful Sunday morning! I am sitting here by the living room window with my cup of tea and the thought of a workout later this morning brings endorphins to mind. I think this will make a good post topic today. Though I have covered endorphins in my earlier post, (where I spoke of it being a neurotransmitter polypeptide that has similar affect as morphine),  here is a brief on how you could beef up your endorphin stock….

Like I said, a workout is a great way – what with all the Christmas and New Year partying, exercises may have a double benefit now. Any physically exertive activity in the range of 20 minutes or over (continuous), causes the body to release endorphines as a defense to fight pain and stress. So you could look at brisk walks, jogging, running, interval training, swimming, dancing, cycling, hiking, group aerobics, gyming – you get the idea….Every bit counts – you only need to clock 20 + minutes of continuous exertive activity and most mentioned as examples are fun! 

Here’s another you will like – Food. This helps in 2 ways – the chewing motion triggers mild endorphin release in all animals including us.  Second, foods like chilli peppers (Jalapeno, Pablano etc) when added to food help – As the body encounters capsaicin, it releases endorphines to fight the distress and pain. Chocolates or caffeine based foods (though not recommended for migraineurs in a big way) or high calorie foods also help though their workings are different on our system.

In my next post, I shall discuss 8 other ways to boost your capability to fight pain by elevating endorphin levels..Till then…

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The Haven of Homeopathy for Migraineurs

Despite its critics, homeopathy offers some of the most potent drugs to tackle migraines. The reason I recommend homeopathic treatments for migraines more than I do allopathic ones is because of the lack of side effects. Moreover, when you are talking of migraines, you are dealing with mid to long-term usage of any drug. If you are like me, you could be looking at 10 years of monthly migraines! In such a scenario, popping pills may not be a great idea. Yes, if it is an infectious or a life-threatening ailment, you will have to resort to mainstream allopathic medication, however.

HOWEVER, CONSULT A HOMEOPATHIC DOCTOR BEFORE YOU EMBARK ON A PROGRAM. Remember, practitioners select treatments according to a patient consultation that explores the physical and psychological state of the patient, both of which are considered important to selecting the remedy. Therefore, what worked for me, may not work for you and vice versa.

Natrum mur, Silicea (also called Silica), Sepia, Belladonna, Bryonia, Cimicifuga, Cyclamen, Gelsemium, Ignatia, Iris versicolor, Kali bichromicum, Lachesis, Natrum muriaticum, Sanguinaria and Spigelia are examples of some homeopathic medicines that effectively counter migraines. 

I will be discussing other effective migraine therapy options in my next post…Until then, take care

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Orange Juice and Migraines for Breakfast

Hope the New Year’s Eve partying melted into sensible resolution-motivated breakfast on January 1st for every one of us. Oats, cereals, apples, OJ, cottage cheese…. Hold on. You would be surprised that citrus fruit and their juices are included in the list of potential triggers for migraineurs. The orange juice, which we consider as one of the most integral part of our diet, could be suspect. Orange juice (and many other citrus juices) contains synephrine -a known vasoconstrictor and allergen. It is also now confirmed that citrus intake creates magnesium deficiency, which again is a migraine trigger…

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