Why do light and sound seem to exacerbate pain during a migraine attack?


Areas of the migraine brain are overactive during an attack and can cause pain thresholds of individuals to drop. This results in a greater pain response when processing light and sound.


“I feel pretty strongly that migraineurs have abnormal multisensory integration, so these areas of the brain which take in all these different sensory information aren't exactly working right, and maybe that they're overworking and therefore allowing something like incoming light to actually make our headache worse, to make how we feel things different.

“You can also see this actually in the lab. Others have done studies where they’ll measure pain thresholds on the skin of someone who has migraine, and then they'll do it again while they're shining a light in their eyes, and in fact, their pain thresholds drop. You can test, and show objectively that they have become more sensitive to pain if they are exposed to a light. People without migraine; that does not happen, so it's specific to migraine.”

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Todd Schwedt, MD

Professor of Neurology
Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona

As a Professor of Neurology the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Arizona, Dr. Todd Schwedt has seen thousands of migraine patients and evaluated a large number of scans of our hypersensitive brains. His research using advanced MRI techniques has been widely published. He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Headache Society, is the Vice Chairman of the Headache and Facial Pain section of the American Academy of Neurology, is a member of the International Headache Society Classification Committee, and is an Associate editor of Headache, Cephalalgia and Pain Medicine journals.