Scientists identify brain pathway that triggers migraines — bringing us closer to a cure

Scientists identify brain pathway that triggers migraines — bringing us closer to a cure

Scientists have discovered a new brain pathway that plays a role in triggering headaches, an advance that may lead to new drugs to treat migraine.

About one in 10 people across the world get migraines. A quarter of the patients also experience a sensory disturbance like an aura, which is characterised by light flashes, blind spots, tingling sensations and double vision and may appear five to 60 minutes before the headache.

It has been known that a wave of brain activity suppression is behind migraines but the exact mechanism has remained elusive.

The new study, published in the journal Science, explains how fluid flow in the brain and a spreading wave of signal disruption triggers migraines and induces the aura.

Researchers from the University of Rochester in the US said the findings may serve as a foundation for a new class of migraine drugs.

“These findings provide us with a host of new targets to suppress sensory nerve activation to prevent and treat migraines and strengthen existing therapies,” study co-author Maiken Nedergaard said.

Scientists have known that the aura is caused when there is reduced oxygen levels and impaired blood flow in a section of the brian.

This happens when brain cells are temporarily depolarised due to the diffusion of charged molecules like glutamate and potassium.

This disruption can radiate like a wave, and when it affects the brain’s vision processing centre it causes visual symptoms such as the aura before a coming headache.

Researchers found a new route by which these signals travel.

They hope their discovery of how nerves in this route are activated can lead to new drug targets. “Among the identified molecules are those already associated with migraines, but we didn’t know exactly how and where the migraine inducing action occurred,” Martin Kaag Rasmussen, another author of the study, said.

Scientists hope the newly identified potential drug targets may benefit a large number of patients who do not respond to available migraine therapies.