Evidence for a shared genetic susceptibility to migraine and epilepsy


Address correspondence to Melodie R. Winawer, Department of Neurology, Columbia University, G.H. Sergievsky Center, 630 W. 168th Street, P&S Box 16, New York, NY 10032, U.S.A. E-mail: mw211@columbia.edu



Although epilepsy and migraine are known to co-occur within individuals, the contribution of a shared genetic susceptibility to this comorbidity remains unclear. We investigated the hypothesis of shared genetic effects on migraine and epilepsy in the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) cohort.


We studied prevalence of a history of migraine in 730 EPGP participants aged ≥12 years with nonacquired focal epilepsy (NAFE) or generalized epilepsy (GE) from 501 families containing two or more individuals with epilepsy of unknown cause. Information on migraine without aura (MO) and migraine with aura (MA) was collected using an instrument validated for individuals ≥12 years. Because many individuals have both MO and MA, we considered two nonoverlapping groups of individuals with migraine: those who met criteria for MA in any of their headaches (MA), and those who did not (“MO-only”). EPGP participants were interviewed about the history of seizure disorders in additional nonenrolled family members. We evaluated associations of migraine prevalence in enrolled subjects with a family history of seizure disorders in additional nonenrolled relatives, using generalized estimating equations to control for the nonindependence of observations within families.

Key Findings

Prevalence of a history of MA (but not MO-only) was significantly increased in enrolled participants with two or more additional affected first-degree relatives.


These findings support the hypothesis of a shared genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and MA.