Do you ever feel like your senses are just overloaded? This is actually a common complaint when someone is in the middle of a migraine attack – there’s too much noise, too much light, too many smells.
But it has been suggested that people with migraine are more sensitive all the time. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that migraine impacts us even when we’re not having a migraine attack.
A study published this spring, An inability to exclude visual noise in migraine, is adding to our understanding of just what migraine does to some patients all the time.
The study, published in the US journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, built on earlier studies to look into how migraine patients process visual information. The researchers used two tasks – a motion coherence task and a motion equivalent noise task. These are common scientific tests which check patient’s ability to interpret moving dots on a screen.
The study determined that migraine patients had trouble filtering out visual noise. That is, they couldn’t focus in on certain visual information the way the non-migraine patients could.
An earlier study in the UK had the same results, and in that case the researchers found an even worse problem in patients with aura (see Visual Noise Selectively Degrades Vision in Migraine).
This type of impairment has been studied in other conditions such as schizophrenia and autism. But there are also concerns that this trouble with visual noise may cause problems with reading comprehension. If this is a serious problem in migraine, it could be even worse in patients who experience “visual snow” and other ongoing auras.
If further studies continue to demonstrate this impairment, it could tell us a number of things. First, it could clarify which parts of the brain and neurological systems are impacted by migraine. But it could also show how migraine impacts all of life. There may be symptoms of migraine that doctors could watch for, or test for.
If you have migraine, do you have trouble with “cluttered environments”? What types of background “noise” in life bother you the most (ie visual, light, sounds, etc)?
For some thoughts on one of the earlier studies on migraine and visual noise, see Visual ‘Noise’ May Overexcite Those With Migraine