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Virtual roller coaster study sheds new light on migraine

By Denise Mann
Health Day reporter

THURSDAY, July 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Roller coasters go up, down, back again and again at breakneck speeds, but if you’re one of the millions who suffer from migraines, the risks may not be worth it.

A new study by German researchers shows that people who suffer from migraines are more likely to experience motion sickness and dizziness after a virtual roller coaster ride, compared to people who don’t have those blinding headaches.

These symptoms were directly correlated with changes in key areas of the brain, the researchers said, and the information could advance research into headache relief.

“Migraine patients reported more dizziness and motion sickness, as well as longer duration and intensity of symptoms on a virtual roller coaster ride, and the brains of migraine patients responded differently,” said study author Dr. Arne May, professor of neurology at the University. from Hamburg. “We found differences not only in [symptoms], but also in specific activations of areas of the cerebellum and frontal gyrus. “

The cerebellum of the brain helps regulate balance, and the frontal gyrus is responsible for visual processing.

More than just a warning about the risks of a roller coaster ride for people with a history of migraine, the new findings add to the understanding of migraine as a sensory disorder and may pave the way for treatments that address these symptoms. .

For the study, 20 people with a history of migraine and 20 people without a history of migraine watched videos to experience a virtual roller coaster ride while researchers used functional MRIs to track brain activity.

No one had a migraine during the virtual ride, but 65% of migraine sufferers felt dizzy, compared to 30% of those without a history of these headaches. Additionally, migraine sufferers also exhibited symptoms for longer periods of time than their migraine-free counterparts, averaging 1 minute 19 seconds versus 27 seconds, respectively. People with migraines also reported more severe motion sickness, according to the study.

People with migraine had increased activity in five areas of the brain that correlated with migraine disability and motion sickness scores, May said. “Migraine patients process visual inputs differently from other people and activate a specific brain network when this happens,” May explained.

Dizziness and motion sickness are often overlooked by doctors treating migraines, even though they are part of the symptom spectrum of this disease. “If we can explain such symptoms and show that a specific area of ​​the brain is activated during attacks, they will be better accepted,” May said.

The study appears in the July 21 issue of Neurology,

Headache specialists said the results improve understanding and burden of migraine.

“It really confirms the dizziness and sensitivity to movement that migraine sufferers experience and expands our perception of migraine as a sensory disorder,” said Dr Teshamae Monteith. She is an associate professor of clinical neurology and head of the headache division at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. Monteith is also a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Migraine is an invisible disorder, but these imaging results validate dizziness and sensitivity to movement and make us think about treatment results other than headaches,” Monteith said. “These symptoms can be disabling and can also occur when playing virtual reality video games.”

“Dizziness is a common symptom reported by people with migraine,” agreed Dr. Brian Grosberg, director of the Hartford HealthCare Headache Center in Connecticut. “The results of this study corroborate this experience and implicate areas of the brain involved in its processing.”

More information

Learn more about migraines and their treatment at the American Academy of Neurology.

SOURCES: Arne May, MD, PhD, professor, neurology, University of Hamburg, Germany; Teshamae Monteith, MD, associate professor, clinical neurology and head, division of headaches, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Brian Grosberg, MD, director, Hartford HealthCare Headache Center, Hartford, Connecticut; Neurology, July 21, 2021


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