A migraine is a lot of things to a lot of people, but a brain protector? No way, right?
One researcher in a review published in the journal Headache, offers an entirely different explanation for what a migraine is. Dr. Jonathan M. Borkum of the University of Maine says, migraines are a protective mechanism meant to ward off oxidation stress, allowing the brain to protect and repair itself, and shielding it from functional decline.
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Oxidative Stress in the Brain
Dr. Borkum reviewed a number of different studies on migraine triggers conducted between 1999 and 2014. Triggers include bright lights, loud sounds, disrupted sleep, air pollution, and more. According to Dr. Borkum, such triggers worsen the imbalance between free radicals and the body’s defenses against them. In other words, each migraine trigger increases oxidation stress in the brain.
“Oxidation stress is a useful signal of impending harm because a number of unfavorable conditions in the brain can give rise to it,” Dr. Borkum told Medical News Today.
Usually, symptoms from a disease such as fever, cough, or pain, aren’t caused by the disorder or infection itself, but by the body’s defenses against it. Dr. Borkum approached migraines in the exact new way, saying that a migraine and the other symptoms that come with it, are actually the body’s reaction to oxidation stress.
(RELATED: Migraine’s Impact on Brain Structure)
Protective Responses in the Brain
Instead of going into a systemic meltdown, the brain enters into a hyper-protective mode, says Bokum. In other words, the migraine is a body’s reaction to the free radical free-for-all going on inside the body.
The result: A good buildup of antioxidants, a brain-wide release of serotonin, and a decrease in electric activity inside the brain — all of which a protective responses.
Understanding what leads to oxidation stress inside the brain could help researchers come up with more effective methods to treat migraines, or even a cure.
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