Migraine and Cognitive Decline: A Topical Review


  • Pamela M. Rist ScD,

    Corresponding author
    • Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
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  • Tobias Kurth MD, ScD

    1. The Department of Epidemiology (T. Kurth), Society, Human Development, and Health (P.M. Rist), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
    2. Inserm Unit 708–Neuroepidemiology (T. Kurth), University of Bordeaux (T. Kurth), Bordeaux, France
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  • Conflicts of Interest: We report no conflicts of interests directly related to the matter of this review but are providing full disclosures (last 2 years) for the authors. Dr. Rist was funded by a training grant from the US National Institute of Aging and has received funding from the Rose Traveling Fellowship Program in Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Dr. Kurth has received investigator-initiated research funding from the French National Research Agency, the US National Institutes of Health, the Migraine Research Foundation, and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, and honoraria from the BMJ for editorial services, Allergan, the American Academy of Neurology, Merck for educational lectures, and MAP Pharmaceuticals for contributing to a scientific advisory panel.
  • Financial support: No specific financial support was received for this study.

Address all correspondence to P.M. Rist, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 900 Commonwealth Avenue, 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Migraine has been linked with an increased risk of stroke and an increased prevalence of clinically silent brain lesions and white-matter hyperintensities. As it is known that stroke and structural brain lesions are associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, it has been hypothesized that migraine may be a progressive brain disorder and associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment. Given the prevalence of migraine in the population, especially among women, and the aging of the population, an association between migraine and cognitive impairment would have substantial public health implications. In this review, we will summarize the existing evidence evaluating the association between migraine and cognitive function. Additionally, we will discuss methodological issues in migraine and cognitive function assessment and elaborate on study design strategies to address this important question.