The brain mechanisms behind migraine: what causes it?

The brain mechanisms behind migraine: what causes it?
The brain mechanisms behind migraine: what causes it?

Migraine is known to involve a complex interaction between genetic, neurochemical and environmental factors that affect the central nervous system.

Photo: Pixabay

Research describes how migraine, a common and debilitating form of headache, involves complex processes in the body. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Rochester explored a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression (CSD), which appears to play a crucial role. Headaches are one of the most common disorders of the nervous system. You may have never heard the word, but you’ve probably experienced it. Headaches are, in very simple terms, pain in the head.

Among them, migraine is a well-known one. According to the WHO, it usually appears in puberty and mainly affects the age group between 35 and 45 years. And although it may be very widespread (it is estimated that the global prevalence of headache, at least once in the last year, in adults is approximately 50%), much is still unknown about the physical and biological processes that occur inside a body with migraine. (Can see: Compensar announces changes in the delivery of medicines).

Migraine is known to involve a complex interaction between genetic, neurochemical and environmental factors that affect the central nervous system. The mechanisms involved include changes in neuronal excitability, alterations in the regulation of cerebral blood flow, and the participation of well-known neurotransmitters such as serotonin. But not much else is known in detail. New research published in Science attempts to shed some light.

Led by researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the University of Rochester, the study investigates how migraine occurs in the body. It is thought that a phenomenon called cortical spreading depression (CSD) could play a role. To understand this better, imagine a “wave” that reduces activity in certain parts of the brain. Scientists used mice to find that this wave can change proteins in the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, called cerebrospinal fluid.

By increasing certain proteins, they can activate the trigeminal nerve, which is linked to headaches. This could trigger a migraine, especially by affecting a particular part of the trigeminal nerve that had not previously been considered important. That nerve is one of the most important in the head and neck. It is responsible for sensation in the face, including the skin, the chewing muscles, and some parts of the ear. It also controls the muscles that allow you to chew.

Scientists believe that when the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord flows into a portion of that nerve, communication is established between the brain and these nerve cells. In the study, they found that this fluid can change and activate nerve cells in the trigeminal nerve, after that “wave” we mentioned at the beginning. This could explain how temporary neurological problems, such as the aura in migraine, are connected to headaches.

According to the researchers, this opens up a previously unknown pathway of communication between the brain and the peripheral nervous system, which could open the door to new forms of treatment. (Can see: Prepare for an avalanche of private insurance?)

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