The impact of cognitive symptoms on migraine attack-related disability

Cephalalgia. 2016 Apr;36(5):422-30. doi: 10.1177/0333102415604471. Epub 2015 Sep 8.


Background: The socio-economic impact of migraine is mostly related to work loss either by absenteeism or decreased work performance. Migraine-associated cognitive dysfunction during an attack may contribute to these difficulties.

Objective: The objective of this article is to analyze the presence and relevance of cognitive symptoms during migraine attacks and to relate their intensity and symptom-related disability with other migraine-defining symptoms.

Methods: Consecutive migraine patients of a headache clinic completed diaries scoring each migraine symptom (including cognitive symptoms) intensity and symptom-related disability.

Results: Of 100 consecutive patients included in this study, 34 (all females, age average 31.8 ± 8.8 years) returned information on 229 attacks, on average 6.7 per participant. Every symptom's intensity was always rated slightly higher than the disability it caused. Pain was the symptom scored with the highest intensity and disability, followed by cognitive symptoms (difficulty in thinking and worsening with mental effort) and photo- and phonophobia. Scoring was independent of any of the clinical variables. Attack intensity and disability scores correlated with intensity and disability from pain and from worsening with mental effort.

Conclusions: Attack-related cognitive symptoms are intense and disabling. Some attack-related cognitive symptoms correlate to intensity and disability subjectively attributed to the migraine attack. Cognitive performance should be addressed as a valuable secondary endpoint in trials of acute migraine treatment.

Keywords: Migraine; cognitive symptoms; disability; headache.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Records
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*