Genetic Link between Migraines and Depression

The results of a recent study show that 25% of patients with migraines are also suffering from depression.

The results of a new study from Leiden University in the Netherlands demonstrate a correlation between the genetic factors that contribute to both depression and migraines.

The study, led by Gisela M. Terwindt, MD, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center, examined 2,652 people who were all descendants of 22 couples. Among the 360 participants who suffered from migraines, 151 had migraines with aura, while 209 of the migraine sufferers did not experience aura. One-quarter of the patients who experienced migraines also suffered from depression, while only 13% of participants without migraines experienced depression. Using these results, the research team then “estimated the relative contribution of genetic factors for both of the disorders.” For both types of migraines, heritability was estimated to be 56%; migraines with aura were estimated at 96%.

"This suggests that common genetic pathways may, at least partly, underlie both of these disorders, rather than that one is the consequence of the other," Terwindt said.

The research was published in Neurology.

In an editorial accompanying the Neurology article, Andrew Ahn, MD, PhD, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, said, “Understanding the genetic factors that contribute to these disabling disorders could one day lead to better strategies to manage the course of these diseases when they occur together. In the meantime, people with migraine or depression should tell their doctors about any family history of either disease to help us better understand the link between the two."