Migraines may not be all bad. A new study out indicates that women with a lifetime history of migraine have less cognitive decline over time than women without migraine. The source of the improved memory retention has not yet been elucidated. Hypotheses include a beneficial effect of anti-migraine medications, diet and or behavior changes.
Study participants were evaluated with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) first from 1993 - 1996 and again in 2004 - 2005. A total of 204 migraineurs and 1,244 nonmigraineurs participated. Those over 50 who had migraine with aura initially scored lower on tests of immediate and delayed memory, but their performance declined significantly less over time compared with that of the nonmigraineurs.
In a statement issued by the American Academy of Neurology, Kalaydjian said: "Some medications for migraine headaches, such as ibuprofen, which may have a protective effect on memory, may be partially responsible for our findings, but it's unlikely to explain this association given we adjusted for this possibility in our study and the medications showed no indication of a significant protective effect." Another factor that needs to be explored is the possibility that migraineurs may alter their diet or behavior in some way that might improve cognition. "For example, alternative treatment for migraine includes adequate sleep, as well as behavioral and relaxation techniques, and a reduction in caffeine," Kalaydjian pointed out. "Despite these theories, it seems more likely that there may be some underlying biological mechanism, such as changes in blood vessels or underlying differences in brain activity, which results in decreased cognitive decline over time," Kalaydjian concluded. "More research is needed to fully understand how migraine affects cognition."
Kalaydjian, P. P. Zandi, K. L. Swartz, W. W. Eaton, and C. Lyketsos How migraines impact cognitive function: Findings from the Baltimore ECA Neurology 2007 68: 1417-1424.