• migraine;
  • concomitant symptoms;
  • inheritance;
  • genetic epidemiology

We studied the inheritance of migraine and concomitant symptoms among 2690 monozygotic (1524 female and 1166 male) pairs and 5497 dizygotic (2951 female and 2546 male) twin pairs. Our material consists of a population-based questionnaire study among Finnish twins in 1981. The definition of migraine is based on a questionnaire method.

Concordance was assessed using probandwise concordance rates and tetrachoric correlations for monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs. For estimating the contribution of genetic factors to the susceptibility of migraine, a polygenic multifactorial model was used. Structural equation models were applied for estimating variance components and to compare different genetic models.

Nearly one-half (40% to 50%) of the liability to migraine is attributable to genetic factors. In all structural analyses, the model with both additive genetic and unshared environmental component had the best goodness-of-fit value. The genetic component varied between 34% to 51% in different migraine types. There were no remarkable differences between sexes except in the effects due to dominance, where the proportion was 26% for men and 14% for women. Concomitant symptoms among subjects within pairs concordant for headache had genetic effects varying from 56% (subjects with unilaterality) and 56% (subjects with visual symptoms) to 45% (persons with nausea and vomiting). The two threshold model of headache points to the continuum model of headache, and the thresholds represent different levels of severity of the pain.

Our results emphasize a multifactorial and higher than previously reported genetic pattern in the etiology of migraine. Also unshared environmental factors play an important role.