Recent research conducted at Harvard Medical School in Boston has shed light on the differences in both brain structure and function for men and women with migraine headaches. We have long known that pain disorders are more prevalent among females than males and that about twice as many females than males suffer from migraines. Are there differences in the brains of men and women that reflect these differences?
Maleki, Linnman, Brawn, Burstein, Becerra and Borsook matched female and male subjects who suffer from migraines for age, age their migraines began, medication type and the frequency of their migraine attacks. The study also included healthy controls. Maleki and his colleagues assessed pain threshold and tolerance for the subjects using a heated bar. They used MRI scans to examine the brains of their subjects when they were at rest and not having a migraine attack. They also did MRI scans when the heated bar was applied to their subjects’ hands to cause some level of pain. They wanted to investigate both differences in the brain at rest and when some type of painful stimulation was provided.