Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor) Feb 10 2020
Individuals who suffer from migraine headaches appear to have a hyper-excitable visual cortex researchers at the Universities of Birmingham and Lancaster suggest.
Migraines are characterized as debilitating and persistent headaches, often accompanied by an increased sensitivity to visual or other sensory stimuli. The exact causes of these headaches are not well understood, although scientists believe they may be related to temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves, or blood vessels in the brain.
In a new study, published in the journal Neuroimage: Clinical , researchers set out to test a theory that at least part of the answer lies in the visual cortex - the part of our brain that is responsible for vision.
Dr. Terence Chun Yuen Fong, lead author on the study, explained:
Most migraineurs also report experiencing abnormal visual sensations in their everyday life, for example, elementary hallucinations, visual discomforts and extra light sensitivity. We believe this hints at a link between migraine experiences and abnormalities in the visual cortex. Our results provide the first evidence for this theory, by discovering a specific brain response pattern among migraineurs."
The study was carried out by researchers based in the Centre for Human Brain Health and School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham, and the Department of Psychology, Lancaster University. The team set up an experiment with a group of 60 volunteers, half of whom were 'migraineurs' - regularly suffering from migraines. Participants were presented with a striped grating pattern, and asked to rate the pattern according to whether it was uncomfortable to look at, or any associated visual phenomena from viewing it. Related Stories
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