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The Science Of Migraines



A throbbing pain on one side of your head. Sensitivity to the light. A horrible sick feeling. Sound familiar? That’s probably because you have suffered from a migraine. For some, migraines are a one of experience, whilst others suffer from them on a daily basis. In fact, migraines are the third most prevalent illness in the world, with 12% of the American population having experienced them to some extent. Of course migraines are detrimental to brain health, but what causes this neurological condition?


Whilst research is expanding in the area of migraines, scientists do not have a definitive causation for migraines, which is why clinical trials studying migraines are so imperative. Research in the field has drifted scientists away from the idea that migraines are a blood vessel disorder, and instead has led them to research the possibility of migraines being a sensory perceptual disorder. This is due to the increased sensitivity to stimuli associated with migraines. Commonly, bright lights and loud sounds can trigger migraines, leading Teshamae Monteith, a Clinical neurologist from the University of Miami Health System in Florida, to suggest that our neurobiological makeup may be altered whilst suffering a migraine.


Another migraine theory looks at the role of hormones in brain health. It is known that 1 in 5 women suffer from migraines compared to 1 in 15 men. The higher prevalence of migraines in females may be explained by hormone changes through the menstrual cycle. Whilst it is known that changing blood flow in the brain’s blood vessels cause the throbbing pain felt during a migraine, this is a consequence of other changes in the body, not the cause of migraines. One possible explanation for this changing blood flow to the brain is changing hormone levels. For example, changing levels of estrogen is thought to cause the blood vessels to contract, and therefore elicit the throbbing pain. However, it should be understood that this theory is not concrete, with other research suggesting that lower estrogen levels provoke nerves on the face and scalp to be more sensitive to pain.


The uncertainty surrounding the root of migraines has not stopped the pharmaceutical industry from researching and developing treatments for migraines. Currently, doctors commonly prescribe painkillers, and the contraceptive pill for women, to relieve migraine pain. However, there have been a number of innovative developments to treat migraines. Notably, the bio-medical technology firm, Theranica Bioelectronics, unveiled their new product Nervivio. The device is worn on the arm and is said to alleviate migraines by delivering electric pulses to the brain. This marks a great milestone in migraine treatments, and general treatments for brain health by challenging traditional medication.


However, for research to continue, and more solutions to be created, it is vital for clinical trials in the area to continue. Unfortunately, many developments, like Nervivio, are hindered in the process as clinical trial sites struggle to enlist volunteers, and of course, without volunteers, clinical trials cannot take place. Research in migraines, and brain health rely heavily on volunteers. To learn more about clinical trials, and to take a survey to see your suitability for a clinical trial, click here.



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