Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of the population suffers with migraine headaches. Despite the high prevalence rate, the exact mechanism(s) for producing migraine headache pain is(are) poorly understood at best. Some researchers have proposed that these headaches are entirely vascular in origin, while others have asserted that they are the result of an intricate transaction between genetic, biochemical, physiological, psychological, personality, and environmental factors.

In the past, migraine has been considered a benign syndrome. However, researchers using a variety of neurological measures and an even wider assortment of neuropsychological instruments have reported abnormalities in individuals with migraine headaches. Some researchers have gone so far as to attribute cortical lesions and related cognitive/intellectual deterioration to the cumulative effects of recurrent migraine headaches. Other researchers have failed to find any significant neurological or neuropsychological differences between migraineurs and headache-free individuals.

Due to the inconclusiveness, inconsistencies, and incomparableness of several of the previous studies addressing neurological and neuropsychological deficits in migraineurs, the present study attempted to use a more theory-based methodology to examine early information-processing in migraineurs. Additionally, more potential mediating variables were controlled for in this study than in many previous studies.

Eighteen migraineurs with aura, 18 migraineurs without aura and 18 headache-free control subjects engaged in auditorily- and visually-presented memory span and memory scanning tasks. The only conclusive findings came from measures of verbal memory span. It appears that migraineurs who experience aura symptoms exhibit poorer auditory attention and have a lower verbal memory span than migraineurs who do not experience aura symptoms and headache-free individuals. Migraineurs with aura also appear to be more susceptible to auditory retroactive and proactive interference. These findings delineate more clearly the short-term memory differences found by other researchers who have examined the neuropsychological sequelae of recurrent migraine. Finally, the subclinical neurocognitive differences found in the relatively young sample of the present study serve to further out understanding of the development of impoarment in these headache sufferers.