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Study Finds Smaller Brains in People Suffering from Migraines and Depression

Update Date: May 23, 2013 10:52 AM EDT
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Previous research has linked migraines to depression, stating that migraines could double one's risk of developing depression. In a new study, researchers aimed to evaluate the relationship between having migraines and depression and overall brain volume. Since migraines and depression are both related to the mechanisms within the brain, the researchers, headed by Larus Gudmundsson, a research associate at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD, wanted to find out where or not these two conditions could be tied to something else. They discovered that people who have migraines and depression also have smaller brains.

"There are several potential explanations why those with both conditions have smaller brain volume," said Gudmundsson according to Medical Xpress. "There could be some genetic factor driving the whole thing. It could be related to pain mechanisms [in the brain]. It's also possible there are social and economic reasons."

The researchers found that the size of the brains of people with migraines and depression was nearly two percent smaller. The researchers stated that this number was not significant enough to determine whether or not the smaller brain volume affected brain functioning. The researchers looked at data compiled in Iceland of around 4,300 adults with the average age of 51-years-old. The participants' migraine frequency was recorded and followed up on after 25 years. The researchers also took a full-brain MRI scan in order to measure brain volume. The only difference in brain volume occurred in people who had both conditions as opposed to none or just one of them.

The researchers reported that they could not attribute the smaller brains to the two conditions and that the brain could have been smaller since birth. More research would need to be done to determine whether or not brain volume affects brain functioning some where down the line.

The study was published in Neurology.  

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