A study presented in the June issue of Headache showed highly accurate MRI differences between the brains of normal subjects and those with chronic migraine. These markers were thickening in some areas of the brain’s cortex, the surface area of the cortex and volumes of certain areas.
Does this mean you can go in and get a brain MRI to confirm your diagnosis? Not really. Most radiologists would not be aware of these findings and would not know how to make that diagnosis based on MRI findings. However, some day these kinds of test may be helpful. For one thing, many patients want some test to show something and they can get frustrated when they are all normal.
The more important part to this research is that it is telling us that the brains of headache sufferers are different in their structure. We don’t know which comes first. It could be that chronic headaches cause the cortex of the brain to grow thicker. It could also be true that people with a genetic tendency for migraines have thicker cortexes as part of the headache generation. For example, we know that migraine with aura starts with electrical disturbances in the cortex so it is possible that a genetic flaw of the makeup of the cortex is also what causes the headaches. Stay tuned as more research needs to be done in this area.