December 4, 2022

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Migraine, the cause of light sensitivity in nerve cells

It has been discovered why migraines are often accompanied by excessive sensitivity to light, leading those who suffer from it to prefer darkness: the culprits are neurons, which during headaches are highly synchronized and thus lead to an excessive response. Visual cortex, the area of ​​the brain responsible for processing visual stimuli. The discovery comes from a group of Italian researchers led by Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in collaboration with the Institute of Neuroscience of the National Research Council (Cnr-In) in Pisa and the University of Padua. I study, published In the Journal of Headache and Pain, he paves the way not only for potential targeted therapies for the visual effects of headache, but also for other diseases with similar characteristics, such as epilepsy.

The association between migraines and hypersensitivity to light has long been considered a contradiction to the fact that headaches actually lead to decreased activity of neurons in the visual cortex. Now, researchers led by Niccolo Meneghetti have shed light on this paradox: During a migraine, neurons are actually less active, but at the same time they are able to sync up faster, so that the collective response of the visual cortex is able to spread. Even excessive effectiveness.

“In people who suffer from headaches, there is a strengthening of ‘inhibitory’ neurons, the role of which is to reduce brain activity,” Mengeti explains. “However, less activity does not necessarily mean that information does not continue to travel: in fact, not only do neurons continue to talk to each other – the researcher continues – but inhibitory neurons synchronize their connections by packets faster than they do without a migraine.” .

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“To understand the pathological behaviors of neurons, we always start from a mathematical model of healthy behavior and then study how disease-induced changes in individual neurons lead to changes in network dynamics, and thus to malfunctions,” says Alberto Mazzoni della Scola Santana, one of the study’s authors. “This is only possible through a very close collaboration between those who obtain the data and those who analyze it – adds Mazzoni – or the neurophysiologists and neuroengineers who worked on this study.”