Migraine is a severe type of headache which can cause pulsing sensation or throbbing in one area of individual’s head. It is usually accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to sound and light. In general, women usually get migraines more than men do. In fact, for every man with migraine, there are three women who suffer from this severe pain in their head. The question is: Why women get more migraines than men? Scientists conducted some studies to finally reveal the answer for this question. This article will show what scientists discovered.
Study Published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology
The study was conducted by David Borsook, neurologist and neurobiologist at the Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and his team. The scientists included 44 men and women into the study, and half of them were migraine sufferers. Both men and women who suffered from migraines said intensity was the same, but women described their migraines as more unpleasant.
The team of scientists scanned brains of participants in order to capture two types of information:
- Shapes and features of the brain
- Brain activity.
Scientists noticed that women who suffered from migraine had slightly thicker grey matter in two brain regions:
- Posterior Insula – It is known for pain processing
- Precuneus – Usually linked to migraines and is also known for part of the brain which regulates person’s consciousness and sense of self.
Participants who didn’t suffer from migraine also didn’t have this thickening. Moreover, the thickening of grey matter wasn’t recorded in the brain of male migraine sufferers.
One of the authors of the study, Nasim Maleki, medical physicist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School inspected the brain scans of men and women who suffered from episodic migraines. The team of scientists observed the brain activity of participants in the moment when they experienced the pain.
The scientists discovered that it isn’t only one part of the brain that differentiates how men and women feel and suffer from migraine. Sex differences in migraine and determined by network of brain areas. The results of this research show that the main reason why women are more prone to migraine than men is in different brain pattern.
Migraine and Emotional Processing of the Pain
Andrew Ahn, neuroscientist at the University Of Florida College Of Medicine in Gainesville, believes that findings of the above mentioned study emphasize the emotional processing of the pain which can also explain the reason why women are more prone to migraine than men. Todd Schwedt, neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, believes that the greater activation of brain regions that process pain correlates with higher level of unpleasantness that women usually experience with migraine.
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Study Published in Annals of Neurology
This study was conducted by Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program in the UCLA Department of Neurology, Dr. Kevin C. Brennan, clinical and research fellow in Dr. Charle’s lab. Unlike the study discussed above, scientists used mice for this research.
People who suffer from migraine show signs of cortical spreading depression or CSD which is indicated by dramatic waves of activity which spreads across entire brain surface. Scientists who worked on this study used imaging techniques in order to visualize CSD in male and female mice. They revealed that female mice had lower threshold for CSD. This means that it is easier to create the brain activity waves which lead to migraine in female brain.
Lower CSD threshold which leads to migraine can be caused by several factors, such as:
- 1 in 4 households in the United States includes someone who suffers from migraine
- 10% of US population suffers from migraine
- 18% of women in US suffer from migraine, while only 6% of men suffer from severe type of headache.
- There is 40% chance for child to suffer from migraine if one of the parents suffers from migraine as well.
- Migraine is listed among 20 world’s most disabling medical illnesses.
- Every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to ER due to severe pain from migraine.
- Migraine attacks can last between 4 and 72 hours.
- More than half of women who suffer from migraine experience more than 1 attack every month.
- More than 90% of people who suffer from migraine aren’t able to function properly, go to work etc.
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Migraine is a type of headache that is characterized by severe pain. People who suffer from migraine are sensitive to light, sound, and the pain is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. However, the fact is, women are more prone to migraine than men and according to studies it is due to different brain patterns.