Cognitive Impairment & Other Strange Migraine Symptoms

Pain is an obvious symptom of migraine, but there’s so much more to migraine than the headache. Even the well-known symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and sometimes aura barely scratch the surface.

Right now I’m in the early stages of a migraine. Although I can feel the pain coming on, more frustrating is that I’m having trouble thinking, concentrating and finding words. I’m fatigued and thirsty. The black circles under my eyes have returned. Eating might make me feel better, but I’m nauseated, have no appetite and the smell of food turns my stomach.

My current symptoms are part of the many different migraine symptoms. I now know what to expect, but I was terrified when I first noticed all these strange feelings I had before and during a migraine. Cognitive impairment was by far the scariest (and it still frustrates me to no end).

My mind is so fuzzy that I can’t make sense of the rest of the post. I’ll return to the topic next week. In the meantime, here are some relevant links that I intend to use as support.


7 Responses to “Cognitive Impairment & Other Strange Migraine Symptoms”

  1. Christina P Says:


    This states that in a study of migraineurs at age 26 who had been diagnosed in childhood, some as early as age 3, there were “subtle but significant” cognitive differences from indivuiduals with tension-type headache.

    It may depend on age at onset.

    There is also an interesting study recently done that showed that migraine sufferers overestimate their cognitive abilities during an attack–particularly in the early phases. I could probably find the link if I didn’t have a stooopid MIGRAINE.

    That’s fascinating.


  2. Daniel Hedrick Says:

    Only recently were the massive headaches I have been having diagnosed as migraines, but I think that’s because I used to only get them about once every six months or so. Recently I’ve gotten two or three a month.

    A few weekends ago, I was attending a conference when a migraine set in and I found myself with cotton mouth — I COULD NOT DRINK ENOUGH WATER!

    And since I had to (at least try to) pay attention during the sessions, I found myself doing weird, distracting movements to try and give my mind a distraction so that it could focus on the speaker and not the pain. It was almost like these were forced ticks and twitches.

    But I paid a huge price… it was by far the worst headache I ever had and it lasted longer than any before.


    PS I’m 36.

    I’m sorry you had such a bad one. Interesting about the twitches. I’m curious to know if they continue or were just that one time.


  3. deborah Says:

    very interesting data, kerrie. i must add, as i had been a pt in one such hosp, and it wasn’t a positive outcome, i find a lot of the lit. they put out there, is dead-on. however, there is still some arguing to be done as far as ‘cognitive and memory’ are concerned; as to returning or diminishing, in my case, i’ve been experiencing this garbage of migraine since i was a little kid, like 5, the older i get, the harder they come, and i’m telling you, my memory and my cognitive skills are definitely NOT what they used to be.

    thank you for the information.

    Thanks for the input. I try to ignore that the cognitive effects may last beyond the migraine. I just don’t want to believe it!!


  4. Christina P Says:

    Note to self: do not post with a migraine.

    See? I thought I had better cognitive skills than I obviously had, because my comments were not terribly clear. What it should say is that there were “subtle but significant” cognitive differences in migraine sufferers as compared to individuals with tension-type headaches.

    I also wanted to challenge the statement that triptans reverse the cognitive difficulties. I’d really like to see hard data on this–like neuropsychological testing data, and not patient self-report, because when I posted last night I was pain-free post-triptan, and I was CLEARLY not 100% cognitively.

    In any case, since when was serotonin the only player in cognition? Dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine…and you just never do know what all that glutamine is doing.

    I agree–the jury’s not in. Which is why I feel so very strongly about prevention. If we can decrease the overall lifetime burden of migraine attacks, maybe, just maybe, we can prevent whatever it is that happens to brain to cause the “subtle but significant” cognitive differences–and any other brain changes that might result.

    I hadn’t thought of prevention in that way — only in terms of reducing the frequency of migraines.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants to try some new preventives! (And I’m seeing a sleep specialist tomorrow.)


  5. Brenda Says:

    I have stood at an ATM machine and not known where to put my debit card or what else to do to retrieve money or I can’t remember how to turn the phone off or the computer on and sometimes I don’t know how to spell even the simplest words. And insurance still says there is nothing wrong with me.

    That’s the rub. And you know that insurance companies will be the last ones to recognize all these other symptoms!


  6. Donna M. Says:

    I have had migraines since I was 13, and now I’m 59. Yesterday I had a migraine. Today, for the very first time, I went to work and could not function. I tried to read my emails and couldn’t make sense of them. I got panicky, and called my doctor. When I got home to wait for my appt. my partner looked up migraines and found that cognitive difficulties can be an after effect of migraines. I called my doctor’s office and her nurse confirmed that, so I cancelled the appointment. I’m still reeling from the fact that this is the very first time in all these years that I have had noticeable cognitive problems after a migraine. It was so marked and I’m trying to chill — and hoping that this pain I feel is not the onset of another one!

  7. Diana Says:

    I have migraine sans pain. At least not the debilitating kind of heard about. Thank the Lord for that small favor. I started with a simple aura at age 31. At 45 I had deep vein thrombosis. Seems that set the trigger off in my head that something was wrong and to set off neural signals in my brain. Now 53 and menopausal I have “aura” symptoms every day, sometimes more than once a day. This can consist of cognitive difficulties (certainly can relate to not know how to operate my computer!), scintillating scotoma, blind spots, after images, various pains throughout my body, numbness, weakness, tingling. Had one doc prescribe anti-anxiety medicine. He kept asking me how things were at home. Good, doc, good. It’s my head that’s scrambled, not my life. Hoping this daily bit ceases or at least lessens once I’m past the big “M”.

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