A recent study published in PLOS ONE states that differences in the brain’s arteries cause inconsistent blood flow which may trigger migraines.
University of Pennsylvania researchers have studied a set of connections between major arteries that protect the supply of blood to the brain. These connections are called the “circle of Willis”, named after the English doctor who first described it in the 1600s. The study, led by Dr. Brett Cucchiara, measured changes in brain blood flow using magnetic resonance angiography to analyze the blood vessel structure of participants,  as well as a MRI method called Arterial spin labeling (ASL).

Cucchiara says: “People with migraine actually have differences in the structure of their blood vessels – this is something you are born with.” These differences appear to be linked with changes in blood flow, and it’s likely that these changes can trigger migraine – which may account for why some people, for example get migraines when they are dehydrated.

Dr. John Detre, the study’s senior author, adds: “Abnormalities in both the circle of Willis and blood flow were most prominent in the back of the brain, where the visual cortex is located.” Detre adds that the location of abnormalities may help to understand why many migraines are accompanied by visual disturbances, such as spots or wavy lines. The researchers note that the connection they saw with migraines and an incomplete circle of Willis are common, and is most likely just one of several factors that cause migraines. It’s the hope of these researchers that future tests of the circle of Willis will help doctors diagnose patients with chronic migraine – and help to create more personalized treatment strategies…….  Medical News Today  7/29/13


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