Roller coasters can be more nauseating for migraineurs. (Stock, Getty Images)
Roller coasters can do more than just excite thrill seekers. According to new research, the fairground attraction could help scientists unravel the mystery of migraines.
Migraine is the third most common “disease” in the world and affects around one in seven people.
The exact cause of the excruciating headache is unknown; temporary changes in chemicals, nerves, and blood vessels in the brain are likely to be to blame.
Since migraines often cause dizziness and nausea – also often after a rollercoaster ride – doctors from the University of Lübeck analyzed the brain pathways of migraineurs during a virtual ride.
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The patients were found to have “more pronounced neural activity” than other volunteers who did not experience migraines.
Although more research is needed, the results can help experts manage the cause of the headache and how best to treat it.
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“Our results show that the brain areas associated with processing migraine pain overlap with brain systems that regulate motion sickness and dizziness,” study author Gabriela Carvalho told New Scientist.
“Not only do people with migraines have headaches, they also often suffer from other conditions, such as motion sickness and dizziness, that can really affect their quality of life.”
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The medical professionals recruited 20 migraineurs from a headache clinic, who were compared with 20 healthy volunteers.
During an MRI scan of the brain, participants were presented with a “visually displayed self-movement paradigm” based on “individual roller coaster videos”.
While none of the participants suffered headaches during the simulation, just under two-thirds (65%) of the migraineurs reported dizziness, compared with only three in 10 (30%) of the control persons.
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The severity of motion sickness in migraine sufferers was also almost twice as high as published in the journal Neurology.
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In the migraineurs, these symptoms lasted an average of 79 seconds compared to 27 seconds in the control group.
Every seventh person suffers from migraines. (Presented by a model, Getty Images)
Perhaps most strikingly, “migraine sufferers had more neuronal activity” in the regions of the brain associated with vision, pain, balance, and dizziness.
However, activity was “decreased” in the regions responsible for cognitive functions, such as alertness.
“These activations correlated with migraine disabilities and motion sickness levels,” wrote the medical professionals.
Carvalho added, “People who and don’t have migraines process information about movement and gravity differently, and these results reflect that.”
While more research is needed, the results could one day open the door to new migraine treatments, according to medical professionals.
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