AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 2, 2020


Study: Exposure to Light Causes Emotional and Physical Responses in Migraine Sufferers

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Researchers identify novel connections between neurons in the eye and neurons in the brain 

People experiencing migraines often avoid light and find relief in darkness. A new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has revealed a previously unknown connection between the light-sensitive nerve cells in the eye and centers in the brain that regulate mood and a host of physical parameters such as heart rate, shortness of breath, fatigue, congestion and nausea. “While studying the effects of color on headache intensity, we found that some patients reported finding light uncomfortable even when it didn’t make their headaches worse,” said lead author Rami Burstein, PhD, vice chair of research in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at BIDMC and professor of anesthesia Harvard Medical School. “We found that exposure to different colors of light could make patients experiencing a migraine feel irritable, angry, nervous, depressed and anxious. These patients also reported feeling physical discomfort, including tightness in the chest or throat, shortness of breath, light-headedness and nausea.” 

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