Causes of menstrual migraine explored

DENVER, CO A new study into the causes of menstrual migraine may bring researchers one step closer to understanding the disease that affects millions of American women.

For the study, presented during the American Academy of Neurologys 54th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colo., April 13-20, 2002, researchers induced in mice the electrical event that occurs in the brain and activates a migraine headache. The event, called cortical spreading depression, is associated with the aura, or warning, experienced by many migraine patients before the headache. An aura typically involves visual changes, such as seeing flashing lights or spots.

The researchers then studied 1,176 genes in the mice to see how the cortical spreading depression affected the genes. They also examined how cortical spreading depression affected the genes at high and low estrogen levels in the mice. Menstrual migraines are triggered by the abrupt drop from high to low levels of estrogen in the blood that occurs during menstruation, according to study author and neurologist K. Michael Welch, MD, of Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, KS.

We found that among the genes most affected by the event were two peptides that influence the activity of the blood vessels and help control pain, Welch said. This points out some networks for pain control in migraine that are disturbed. Its important because it helps us pick out genes that might be candidates for potential new treatments.

Welch said more research is needed on the peptides, called atrial natriuretic peptide and neuropeptide Y, to investigate how they may be related to migraine attacks.

Little research has been done on this frequent form of migraine, Welch said. Also, since the ratio of women to men with migraine is three to one, it makes sense to examine how ovarian hormones affect migraine.

Migraine affects about 8.7 million women in the United States each year, according to the American Council for Headac

Contact: Cheryl Alementi
American Academy of Neurology

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