Glutamate Levels Higher in People with Migraine

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that everyone needs, but its link with migraine has become well-known. It’s not surprising that there’s a connect – glutamate transmits pain signals in the body. And now we have more evidence that glutamate levels in the brain are higher in people with migraine.

BrainGlutamate has been a big topic in the world of migraine genetics, because genetic variants related to migraine may lead to a build-up of glutamate in nerve cell junctions in the brain. Many treatmente available or being developed for migraine today may affect glutamate messages in the body. This would include treatments focused on calcium channels (such as Verapamil) and the new CGRP inhibitors.

Glutamate may be a culprit in a number of disorders other than migraine – including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis (MS), and autism.

It may seem obvious that a pain transmitter would be higher when someone has a severe headache. But this study says something a little different.

Published in July in the neurological journal Brain, researches discovered that glutamate levels were higher in the brains of people with migraine – specifically in the visual cortex. Surprisingly, that was specifically in migraineurs without aura.

But the most interesting fact of all was that these were interictal levels. In other words, the glutamate was higher in migraineurs than in the general population in between attacks – when no headache was present.

Could this be related to the higher “excitability” of the migraine brain, and why we’re more prone to headaches? The researchers think so.

To read more about the study, see the abstract here: Cortical glutamate in migraine

A lot of research is being done to see how various treatments, exercise, and even diet could improve glutamate levels. But the answer is not simple, because glutamate levels are a part of a complex web of activity in the brain. But studies like this are giving us a better understanding of migraine, and giving us more evidence that glutamate plays a key role.

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