Researchers supported by the BIAL foundation published in The Journal of Headache and Pain

04 May, 2020

Isabel Pavão Martins et al. published in the scope of the research project 63/10 - Mindful ageing. Avoiding age related cognitive decline, supported by the BIAL Foundation, the paper Cognitive aging in migraine sufferers is associated with more subjective complaints but similar age-related decline: a 5-year longitudinal study in The Journal of Headache and Pain.


Objectives and background

The effect of headache on cognitive performance is controversial, due to conflicting results obtained from studies in clinical or population settings. We aimed to understand if migraine and other headaches modify the rates of decline on different cognitive measures, during a 5-year interval.

Design and method

A cohort of community dwelling adults (> 50 years) with migraine (MH), non-migraine headaches (NMH) and controls without headache (WoH), was assessed by a comprehensive neuropsychological battery with tests of memory, language and executive functions, repeated 5 years apart. Change in performance between baseline and reevaluation was compared between groups, and controlled for age, gender, literacy and depressive symptoms.


A total of 275 participants (78.5% WoH, 12.7% MH, 8.7% NMH) were reevaluated (average age 70.40 + 8.34 years, 64% females). Cognitive decline or dementia occurred in 11.4%, with a similar proportion among the three groups. Although MH participants had significantly more subjective cognitive complaints (p = 0.030, 95%CI:]-3.929,-0.014[), both MH and NMH subjects showed an age-associated decline identical to controls. Furthermore, migraine features (disease and attack duration, frequency and aura) were unrelated with cognitive performance.


Migraine and non-migraine headache are not associated with increasing risk of dementia or cognitive decline at an older age although subjects with migraine have more cognitive complaints. Longer longitudinal studies are necessary to understand if this pattern persists for more than 5 years.”