Migraines and Auras

By Moutsos, Zoe 
May 01, 2018

Migraines and Auras

If you are among the one-third of migraine sufferers who have an aura before a migraine, you know how unsettling this can be. Auras may include:

  • Visual disturbances (jagged lines, called fortification spectra, with bright spots or flashes)

  • Temporary, partial vision loss

  • Numbness

  • Tingling sensations

Scientists have tried to understand the migraine aura for years. But, until recently, they didn't have the tools to study brain activity during a migraine attack. Technology, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is done on migraine patients while they are having a migraine. This has let researchers see waves of altered electrical activity, (also called spreading depression), spreading across the brain during an aura. Experts believe that different areas of the brain are stimulated as these waves cross the brain, causing the symptoms of aura. Researchers have suggested that the reason why only some people with migraine have auras is that their brain is overly sensitive to certain triggers.


May 01, 2018


Gilmore, B., Treatment of Acute Migraine Headache, American Family Physician, Migraine Headache. Hildreth, Carolyn J. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009, is. 24, ed. 301, p. 2608., Migraine Matters/Summer 2005, Pathophysiology, Clinical Manifestations, and Diagnosis of Migraine in Adults. UpToDate

Reviewed By:  

Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN,Shelat, Amit, MD