The Migraine-Body Clock Connection: New Genetic Clues

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Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

If you're one of the 36 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches, you probably already know that if your sleep routine is thrown off, you're asking for head-whanging trouble.

New research suggests that the migraine-sleep connection goes far deeper than that, and revolves around the brain's hypothalamus, which helps control our body clocks among other functions.

The Dana Foundation, which supports brain research, has just posted an intriguing scientific yarn about how insights gained from a family of extreme "morning larks" — as in, up at 4:30 every morning, asleep by 7:30 at night — may help point to a better understanding of migraine that could lead to better treatments. Read the full story here. The crux:

The spark of insight that brought the two fields together occurred recently when migraine researcher Robert Shapiro realized that his patient, who was seeing him for migraine with aura, was a member of an extended Vermont family of extreme morning larks.

A study of fourteen members of the family showed that the CK1delta gene implicated in FASP was also connected to migraine with aura.4 Five family members who had identical mutations in the CK1delta gene also met the diagnostic criteria for migraine. The Ptacek and Fu team then sequenced this gene in the genetic material from 70 additional families with FASP. One family had a slightly different mutation in the CK1delta gene. In this family, too, all five members with CK1delta gene mutations had a history of headache that strongly suggested the diagnosis of migraine. To show that these changes in the CK1delta were in fact mutations, further biochemical studies were performed to show that the changes in both families reduced the enzymatic activity of the CK1delta protein.
The details of this association, from a cellular or neurotransmitter point of view, still require further work, but neuroscientists are already buzzing about the news because the existence of a CK1delta-FASP connection advances the likely role of the hypothalamus in migraine.

You go, migraine researchers. There are few things I hate more than the sudden buzzing blank spots in the fabric of my world that signal the onset of migraine misery...

This program aired on December 4, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.