The painful migraine experience is one that often leaves a lasting impression on the brain of its victim that can be seen through MRI imaging. Appearing as bright spots on MRI scans, lesions known as “hyperintensities” are changes in the white matter, brain stem and cerebellum that appear much more frequently on the brains of female migraine sufferers.
Previous studies have shown an association between these hyperintensities and risk factors for atherosclerosis, increased risk of stroke and cognitive decline.
However, the results of a nine-year follow up study revealed that women with migraines did not appear to experience a decline in cognitive ability over time compared to those who didn’t have them.
“The fact that there is no evidence of cognitive loss among these women is good news,” says Linda Porter, Ph.D., pain health science policy adviser in the office of the director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which funded the study. “We’ve known for a while that women with migraine tend to have these brain changes as seen on MRI. This nine-year study is the first of its kind to provide long-term follow-up looking for associated risk.”
More research is needed to find out if these hyperintensities are related to ischemia and ischemic stroke risk, according to the researchers.