Migraines and Auras

If you are among the 1 out of 3 migraine sufferers who have an aura before a migraine, you know how unsettling this can be. Auras may include:

  • Visual disturbances (jagged lines, called fortification spectra, with bright spots or flashes)

  • Short-term (temporary), partial vision loss

  • Numbness

  • Tingling feelings

  • Trouble speaking

  • Weakness on one side of the face or one side of the body (rare)

Scientists have tried to understand the migraine aura for years. But until recently, they didn't have the tools to study brain activity during a migraine attack. Today, a functional MRI can be done on someone having a migraine. This has let researchers see waves of altered electrical activity (called spreading depression), spreading across the brain during an aura. Experts believe that different parts of the brain are stimulated as these waves cross the brain. This causes aura symptoms. Recently, certain proteins released by nerve cells (neuropeptides) have been shown to be linked to migraine and aura. Researchers think that the reason why only some people with migraine have auras is that their brain is highly sensitive to certain triggers.