Does research show that the migraine brain is actually different?


Research has shown that there is something different in the migraine brain in glutamate metabolism that causes the migraine brain to be hyper-excitable. There are also genes in those with migraine that are modified causing the wiring of the migraine brain to be different.


“And what have the studies taught us when we look at the whole map? More or less things that we already kind of knew. They are telling us that the brain is hyper-excitable because glutamate, which is the neurotransmitter that fires neurons … is very present. So there's something different in the glutamate metabolism.
“They're telling us that the axon wiring … so this is like how the brain is really wired from the beginning … is different because genes that modulate this growth of the circuits are also changed in migraine. So we have that, and they're telling us also that the axon plaques and neurons, they have to communicate within themselves through little communications that we call synapses. So the things that determine the synapse, how they work, are also different genetically. I mean, the genes that modulate this transmission are also different in migraine.”


Migraine research has shown that there are several differences in the migraine brain versus an individual’s brain who does not have migraine. One difference is that the migraine brain carries out glutamate metabolism in a different way that causes the migraine brain to be hyper-excitable. There are also genes in those with migraine that are modified, either from inheritance or from the environment, that cause the wiring of the migraine brain to be different.

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Patricia Pozo-Rosich, MD, PhD

Head of Neurology Section
Vall d’Hebron Hospital and Institute of Research, Spain

As the director of headache and neurological pain research at Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Pozo-Rosich is one of the leading migraine researchers in Europe. An active leader in the field of international headache medicine, Dr. Pozo-Rosich is passionate about educating patients and clinicians about migraine. She is the coordinator of the Headache Study Group of the Spanish Neurological Society (GECSEN). Additionally, she is the founder of the Spanish-language website In 2023, she was awarded the Cephalalgia Award for her article “Salivary CGRP Can Monitor the Different Migraine Phases: CGRP (In)dependent Attacks,” which she presented at the International Headache Congress in Seoul, Korea.

Dr. Pozo-Rosich is a member of the International Headache Society, the American Headache Society, the International Headache Genetics Consortium, and the Catalan Neurological Society.

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