As many as 20% of the general population suffers from migraine headaches. Understanding the changes that take place in neurons in the brain that precipitate migraine is essential to the discovery of new methods of treating this incapacitating form of headache.
The headache of a migraine is often preceded by an aura. This consists of flashing lights or shiny angular shapes that drift slowly across the sufferer's vision. After nearly half a century of research, aura is now believed to be due to a phenomenon in which depression of electrical activity spreads across the surface of the cells in the brain's cortex. This cortical spreading depression (CSD) occurs in all vertebrates but has not been linked to the headache that follows an aura -- until now.
Michael Moskowitz and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital used rats to model CSD and found that this process activates the trigeminal nerves leading to inflammation in the pain-sensitive meninges, a situation that equates with the condition of headache (Nature Medicine, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 136, 01 Feb 02).
Constantino Iadecola of Weill Medical Center at Cornell University, discusses the study in an accompanying News & Views article (p. 110) and considers whether CSD could become a valid therapeutic target for treating migraine and ultimately asks that if CSD triggers aura and leads to headache, what triggers CSD?
Dr. Michael A. Moskowitz
Stroke and Neurovascular Regulation Laboratory
Department of Radiology
Massachusetts General Hospital
Harvard Medical School
Tel: +1 617 726 8442
Fax: +1 617 726 2547
Dr. Constantino Iadecola
University of Minnesota
Department of Neurology and Neuroscience
Center for Clinical and Molecular Neurobiology
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Phone: +1 612 624 1902
Fax: +1 612 625 7950
Email Address: email@example.com
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