Migraine and the Brain: Men and Women are Different

ImageRecent 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.

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Most of us experience headaches from time to time but when they occur frequently and with an intensity of pain that interferes with our lives, they become a serious, life-altering problem. If you develop a headache problem it is important to consult with your family physician in order to rule out causes related to illness, medication side effects, or other factors that can be investigated and treated medically.

Types of Headaches

There are many different types of headache. The International Headache Society has grouped headaches into two major categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches do not have a clear link to another disease or injury, secondary headaches do. Primary headaches occur more often than secondary headaches, and include, migraine, tension and cluster headaches.

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