Migraine & Cognitive Impairment: Recent Study Highlights the Connections
Most migraineurs can relate: they’re not thinking clearly when attacks are happening. As debilitating headaches come on, through bouts of nausea, or as visual or auditory stimuli become torturous, who actually could? Indeed, a link between cognitive difficulties and migraine has been observed for some time; however, the full extent of this link has rarely been investigated. Recently, however, research published in The Journal Of Headache And Pain, presented some new insights into how migraine and cognitive impairment are connected. 
Assessing a wide-range of data and studies, the researchers were able to paint a thorough picture of what we know and don’t know about how this condition affects thinking and cognitive ability. Let’s take a closer look at this potentially very significant research.
A Large Pool
Drs. Vuralli, Ayata, and Bolay wanted to make a qualitative assessment of existing studies of migraine and cognition. This meant focusing on effects such as disruption in memory, attention, and processing speed among others during attack as well as in interictal (in-between) periods, that is those between headaches and other symptoms.  In addition, they differentiated between the kind of data found in more longitudinal (long-term) studies, those based on pharmacological measures, as well as neurophysiological imaging.
Working through such a huge array of studies allowed the researchers found some interesting, if somewhat conflicting, findings. When relying on clinical studies, pharmacological ones, as well as those that relied on neurological imaging a more pronounced effect was seen in between attacks, while broader, population-based studies did not.  Certain measures—particularly attention and memory—displayed significant effects, though, notably, long-term studies did not show a progressive effect.
What was confirmed throughout all of this was that during attacks and in periods immediately following, patients were feeling distinct cognitive effects. “Cognitive symptoms are frequent in the premonitory phase and headache phase of a migraine attack and may also persist in the postdrome,” they reported.  But a point of emphasis for the researchers—and what warranted more research—was the shape and nature of cognitive effects in the interictal period. Why would periods between headaches also affect the cognition of patients?
Medications & the Mind
According to Dr. Vuralli and the team, there are a couple reasons these abilities are sapped in between attacks. Notably, they could reasonably point to a pharmaceutical effect at play. This would explain why clinical work as well as that which measured pharmacological effect was able to pick up more of an influence. Most migraineurs are taking medications to both take on the pain and other symptoms and prevent onset, so their side-effects, some of which do affect cognition, can crop up. 
In addition, the team pointed to the prevalence of other mental factors. Rates of depression and anxiety are elevated among this population, and these have also been shown to affect some aspects of cognition. As is often the case with wide-ranging, review work of this nature, the authors were able to catch the major trends in research, while also noting some areas where more work is needed.
The Chronic Crunch
Among the areas where the most study seemed to be called for, according to Dr. Vuralli and the team, was the effect of chronic migraine on cognition. This is when headache attacks and other symptoms are occurring much more regularly: 14 or so times a month. Not as widespread as other forms of this disease, but nonetheless present in a robust one percent of people, the intensity and severity of this type cannot be understated. No doubt, future research will go in this direction.
But if you are suffering from migraine, it’s important to realize that treatment options are available. Unlike in years past, there are many things you can do to help you get your life back. Even as we’re learning more about this complicated condition, know that no one has to feel helpless in the face of it.
The team at Migraine Treatment Centers of America specializes in taking on the most difficult, chronic cases of migraine. Employing the groundbreaking Omega Procedure, they’ve helped countless patients achieve successful results and management of this condition. Learn more about what they do by calling (855) 300-6822 today!
- Vuralli, Doga, Cenk Ayata, and Hayrunnisa Bolay. 2018. “Cognitive Dysfunction And Migraine”. The Journal Of Headache And Pain19 (1). Springer Nature America, Inc. doi:10.1186/s10194-018-0933-4.
- “Study Investigates Extent Of Cognitive Impairment In Migraine “. 2018. AJMC. Accessed December 17 2018. https://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/study-investigates-extent-of-cognitive-impairment-in-migraine-.