Research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital has shown that migraines are not associated with cognitive decline.
While migraines affect about 20 percent of the female population, there are many unanswered questions surrounding this complex disease, according to the researchers.
Previous studies linked migraines to an increased risk of stroke and structural brain lesions, but until this new study it had been unclear whether migraines had other negative consequences, such as dementia or cognitive decline.
“Previous studies on migraines and cognitive decline were small and unable to identify a link between the two,” said Pamela Rist, a research fellow in the Division of Preventive Medicine at BWH, and lead author on this study. “Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline.”
The research team analyzed data from the Women’s Health Study, which included nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older.
They analyzed data from 6,349 women who provided information about migraine status at baseline and then participated in cognitive testing during followup.
Participants were classified into four groups: No history of migraine, migraine with aura (transient neurology symptoms mostly of the visual field), migraine without aura, and past history of migraine. Cognitive testing was carried out in two-year intervals up to three times.
“Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of cognitive decline,” she said.
“This is an important finding for both physicians and patients. Patients with migraine and their treating doctors should be reassured that migraine may not have long-term consequences on cognitive function.”
There is still a lot that is unknown about migraines, she acknowledged, noting that more research needs to be done to understand the consequences of migraine on the brain and to optimize treatment strategies.
The study was published online by the British Medical Journal.
Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital