FRIDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Although they are common and often debilitating, migraine headaches are not associated with declines in thinking skills, researchers say.
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"Previous studies on migraines and cognitive [brain] decline were small and unable to identify a link between the two. Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline," lead author Pamela Rist, a research fellow in the division of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a hospital news release.
For the study, the researchers examined data previously compiled on nearly 40,000 women aged 45 years and older. They also analyzed new information they collected from more than 6,300 women regarding their migraine status. Based on this information, the women were divided into four groups: no history of migraine; migraine with aura (usually described as a visual disturbance); migraine without aura; and past history of migraine. Every two years for up to six years the women underwent testing of their cognitive, or thinking, skills.
"Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of cognitive decline," Rist explained. "This is an important finding for both physicians and patients. Patients with migraine and their treating doctors should be reassured that migraine may not have long-term consequences on cognitive function."
More research is needed to investigate the affects of migraine on the brain and to improve treatment strategies, the study authors noted.
The study findings were published in the Aug. 8 online edition of the BMJ.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: Brigham and Women's Hospital, news release, Aug. 8, 2012