Painful migraines 'do not have a long-term effect on how well you learn and remember'
Migraines affect around one in five women and can be triggered by multiple factors such as stress, skipping a meal, or a change in hormone levels
11:18 GMT, 13 August 2012
Agonising they may be, but migraines don't hurt your brain, according to a new study.
Researchers found women who suffered from the severe headaches were no more likely to have trouble learning or remembering things than those unaffected by the condition.
Migraines affect around one in five women yet there are many unanswered questions surrounding this complex disease.
Attack: Migraines are not associated with cognitive decline
Previous studies have linked the disorder to an increased risk of stroke and structural brain lesions, but it has remained unclear whether migraines had other negative consequences.
Now according to the research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, migraines are not associated with cognitive decline.
Study leader Pamela Rist, said: 'Previous studies on migraines and cognitive decline were small and unable to identify a link between the two. Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline.'
The research team analysed data from the Women’s Health Study, a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, who were 45 or older.
These techniques have been suggested by the Migraine Trust to try and ease the pain of an attack…
Using temperature – both hot or cold. Try applying an icepack, or a
hot water bottle, to the painful area. Hot or cold showers help some
sufferers, or try soaking the hands and feet in hot or cold water.
Pressure. Try applying pressure to the pulse points on the side of the forehead or neck to relieve the headache.
Manipulation in the form of massage and reflexology are more
complicated techniques. You may need to find a trained practitioner
to get the best results.
Osteopathy and chiropractic are also
manipulative techniques. These techniques should only
be carried out by a registered practitioner; your doctor may be able to
They concentrated on the result from 6,349 women who provided information about migraine status at the start of the study and then participated in cognitive testing during follow-up.
Participants were classified into four groups: no history of migraine, migraine with aura, migraine without aura, and past history of migraine.
Cognitive testing was carried out in two year intervals up to three times.
Ms Rist said: 'Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of cognitive decline.
'This is an important finding for both physicians and patients. Patients with migraine and their treating doctors should be reassured that migraine may not have long term consequences on cognitive function.'
Cognitive decline is when the brain doesn't work as well as it used to. For instance someone may have memory problems, or have trouble learning a new skill or with using language. Some decline is a normal part of aging, however when it is rapid and affects every day life it is classed as dementia.
The study is published online by the British Medical Journal.