A provocative new study raises the remarkable possibility that longtime, middle-aged migraine sufferers actually benefit from the painful malady.
The journal Neurology reports that a group of migraine sufferers had less cognitive decline and memory loss over a period of 12 years than a group of migraine-free adults.
Researchers can't explain what could be a silver lining in the painful condition, but it's possible that the physiological changes that accompany the headaches might protect brain cells over the long haul, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.
Beyond offering a modicum of solace to the 30 million migraine sufferers in the United States, the strange finding, if verified, could offer researchers new leads into ways to preserve memory in aging brains, the newspaper reported.
"This is really a surprise," Bhupendra Khatri, director of the Center for Neurological Disorders at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, told the newspaper. "This is going to stimulate a lot of research."
If anything, migraine sufferers might be expected to have more cognitive decline, said Khatri, who was not a part of the study.
He noted that they tend to suffer from more depression, anxiety, seizures and strokes than people who do not have migraines, the newspaper reported.
However, there has been a lack of research looking at the long-term effect of migraines on memory and cognitive function, he said.