Migraine is a complex genetic disorder characterized by recurrent, severe headache accompanied by nausea or profound sensitivity to light and sound. More than 40 million Americans experience migraine. Each year, migraine costs the United States economy an estimated $19.6 billion.

The Migraine Research Program at Mayo Clinic focuses on better understanding and treatment of this highly prevalent, pathophysiologically complex and heterogenous disorder.

For several reasons, migraine is challenging to study:

  • It is a paroxysmal disorder in which there are no neurological symptoms or signs in between attacks.
  • There is currently no specific radiological, biochemical or pathological biomarker to define the disorder as a disease.
  • A prominent component of the syndrome is pain, which is subjectively experienced and difficult to quantitate across multiple patients.

The study of the pathophysiology of migraine has greatly evolved over the last 15 years. The rapid evolution of investigative techniques permits study of migraine with minimal invasiveness in human subjects.

Three areas of rapid progress are investigations focusing on the genetics of migraine, the environmental factors influencing migraine and applications for novel functional neuroimaging techniques.