How was it first discovered that genetics played a role in migraine?


The idea that genetics could play a role in migraine first evolved from patients simply telling their doctors that other family members had migraine. There was also a Norwegian study on pain in twins that revealed a potential genetic component of migraine.


“Most patients were telling us, you know, this runs in the family. Because sometimes you ask them, ‘Why didn't you come before?’ ‘Oh, because I was doing what my mother told me to do or what my grandmother was doing.’
“And they don't feel sometimes at the beginning, when it's really sometimes episodic, as if it were a problem. They actually lived with it because that's what happens in their family. So patients are micro-experts. And we were listening, and they were telling us that migraine runs in their families. Then there were some initial studies, twin studies, done in the Scandinavian countries. There is a famous Norwegian study and they started seeing that twins are so [similar], they were more migrainous than others … because there's always a fight with genetics, whether it's genes or the environment. Is it your lifestyle? You know, you're stressed and whatever problems you might have, or is it the genes? And it's probably both, but genes are so important. I mean, you are wired differently from the beginning so that's how we started knowing that migraine could be genetic.”


The idea that genetics could potentially play a role in migraine first began with patients simply telling their doctors that other members of their family had migraine disease, as well. In addition, a study on pain in twins was conducted in Scandinavia and it revealed that there could be a potential genetic component in migraine and other headache disorders.

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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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