Woman’s Brain Wired for More Migraines
Women May Have a Faster Migraine Trigger in Their Heads Than Men
Aug. 8, 2007 -- Women may
get more migraines than men because their brains are quicker to release the
trigger that begins the migraine cycle.
Women are three times as
likely as men to suffer from migraine headaches, and a new study suggests the
reason may be that their brains are faster to activate the cascading waves of
activity thought to cause migraine pain as well as other migraine
Researchers say migraines were
once thought to be caused by constriction and dilation of blood vessels. But
advances in brain imaging technology now suggest that migraines may start as a
result of brain excitability.
People with migraines show
dramatic waves of brain activity that spread across the surface of the brain --
known as cortical spreading depression (CSD). This depression is thought to
trigger not only the severe pain associated with migraines but also the visual
symptoms, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating often associated with
New Target for Treatment?
In a study published in the Annals of Neurology, researchers found
that compared with male mice, female mice had a much lower threshold for
releasing the CSD trigger.
"The results were very clear," says researcher Andrew Charles, MD,
director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program in the UCLA department
of neurology, in a news release. "The strength of the stimulus required to
trigger CSD in males was up to two or three times higher than that required to
trigger the response in females."
Researchers say many factors may reduce the CSD threshold in both sexes,
such as genes, hormones, and environmental triggers like stress, diet, and
changes in sleep patterns.
"Our results suggest that the female brain has an intrinsic excitability
that predisposes them to migraine that may not be simply linked to a specific
phase of the menstrual cycle," says Charles.
Researchers say if these results are confirmed in future studies this
triggering mechanism may be a new target for migraine treatment.
- Suffer from migraines? Join others like you for expert information and
support on WebMD's Migraines: Indie
Cooper-Guzman, RN, message board.