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Migraines and depression: Brain pain and emotional pain somehow linked

July 20, 2012

It seems that everything can be correlated to an increased risk of depression, but sometimes the increased risk is significant enough to warrant an alert. If you are a female and currently experience migraine headaches, or have a history of migraines, you are 40% more likely to develop symptoms of depression. 

That statistic is enough to give someone a headache.

The finding is preliminary though, and requires more study. (Have you ever read research results that stated no more research is required?) 

It is not clear if the migraine-depression link is causal (migraines trigger depression), circumstantial (it is depressing to live with migraines), or inherent (both illnesses come from the same genetic predisposition). Researchers are also looking into biological connections such as neurotransmitters that trigger both diagnoses.

Does this link work in reverse? There is pre-preliminary evidence that women who experience depression might have a higher chance of getting migraines later in life. This less than unsubstantiated link is not considered causal. 

Treatment “Link” 

How interesting that different forms of deep brain stimulation are promising treatments for depression and migraines. Maybe those old Frankenstein movies with the giant electrodes were on to something.

A team of researchers at CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, have developed tDCS, or Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation. They report their technology can undo undesirable brain changes caused by chronic migraines.

Repeated use of the tDCS purse-portable electrical stimulator significantly reduced the intensity of study subject’s migraines by 37%. The researchers also believe this device might be used daily or weekly to prevent migraines. 

Some people using tDCS in a pilot study experienced a “mild tingling sensation” during the treatment, but there were no other reported side effects. Similar treatments, also with few side effects, are available (or nearly so) for depressive symptoms.

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