This 2016 German human study with one subject found:
“The hypothalamus to be the primary generator of migraine attacks which, due to specific interactions with specific areas in the higher and lower brainstem, could alter the activity levels of the key regions of migraine pathophysiology.”
The subject underwent daily fMRI scans, and procedures to evoke brain activity. She didn’t take any medications, and suffered three migraine attacks during the 31-day experimental period.
“The dorsal pons has previously been found to be hyperactive during migraine. It’s been dubbed the brain’s ‘migraine generator.’ Schulte and May’s data suggest that this is not entirely true – rather, it looks like the hypothalamus may be the true generator of migraine, while the brainstem could be a downstream mediator of the disorder.
A hypothalamic origin of migraines would help to explain some of the symptoms of the disorder, such as changes in appetite, that often accompany the headaches.”
The above graphic looks to me like the result of feedback mechanisms that either didn’t exist or inadequately handled the triggering event. Other examples of the hypothalamus lacking feedback or being involved in a deviated feedback loop include:
- Lack of feedback to the HIF-1α signaling source mentioned in Lack of oxygen’s epigenetic effects
- Impaired hippocampal glucocorticoid negative feedback mentioned in Treating prenatal stress-related disorders with an oxytocin receptor agonist
There are many unanswered questions with a one-person study, of course. Addressing the cause of this painful condition would find out when, where, and how a person’s hypothalamus became modified to express migraine tendencies.
I’d guess that migraine tendencies may appear as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, given that a highly functional hypothalamus is needed for survival and development in our earliest lives. Gaining as much familial and historical information as possible from the person would be necessary steps in therapies that address migraine causes.
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2016/05/22/pinpointing-origins-of-migraine/ “Pinpointing the Origins of Migraine in the Brain”
https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/139/7/1987/2464241 “The migraine generator revisited: continuous scanning of the migraine cycle over 30 days and three spontaneous attacks”
As mentioned in How to cure the ultimate causes of migraines? comments are turned off for this post due to it somehow becoming a magnet for spammers. Readers can comment on that post instead.