Semmelweis researchers to identify causes of migraine more precisely

Science

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Researchers at Semmelweis University in Budapest have looked at how migraine sufferers process emotions to understand the causes of the intense headaches more precisely. Since this is the first study to investigate such a link, further research is needed: replication in bigger cohorts, and additional research to understand the biology behind, but the results may bring targeted treatment a step closer.

In their study, which involved approximately 80 migraine patients recruited by advertisement and from headache clinics, researchers categorized people based on when an attack began (morning, evening, or variable) and analyzed how people in each group processed emotions by showing them images of faces with different emotional expressions.

“Today, only a fraction of people respond (well) to treatment,” said Gabriella Juhász, associate professor in the department of pharmacodynamics at Semmelweis University’s faculty of pharmacy. “If we can categorize patients into subgroups and pinpoint the related causes such as time of day and alterations in biological processes, e.g. sleep patterns, we may be able to treat them more effectively.”

In the two studies, researchers found differences among groups in their response to images showing fearful faces at parts of the brain responsible for processing pain and sensory-related information. However, which group showed more enhanced activity varied in the two studies.

As migraine is a major global health issue that affects over 10% of the population and is the second leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide, identifying what causes an attack could be the pathway to more targeted treatment, the university believes. 

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