Migraine and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often co-occur, but researchers don’t know much about how or why this happens. A new study was published by researchers from Australia and colleagues from the US that reportedly are the 1st to study if the conditions have a common genetic basis.
Identical twins were studied where one twin in each pair suffers from PTSD or migraines, and the other twin doesn’t. It was found that those common genes may play a role in both conditions. These genes may help to explain why the conditions co-occur and could reveal new treatment for both.
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs after a traumatic experience. Most people experience traumatic experiences in some part of their life, but the vast majority will not develop PTSD. Those of have PTSD are more likely to experience migraine headaches, suggesting common risk factors for these conditions. The synergy between migraine and PTSD is not understood, as no studies have studied the link before.
Epigenetics in twins researchers focused on seeing which genes show altered activity in migraine and PTSD and whether the conditions shared common changes. Six pairs of twins were there in the study, and both the twins had experienced traumatic events, but only one of each pair lived with PSTD.
All the conditions are met; there is a low probability, the sample size could never be large. Because all of their DNA is shared by identical twins, but not all of their epigenetic marks, the study is still powerful. Fifteen pairs of twins were also there where one of each pair experiences migraine headaches. Blood samples from the twins were taken and analyzed to detect epigenetic changes associated with migraine or PTSD.
“Epigenetic mechanisms have been associated with genes involved in PTSD. PTSD often co-occurs with other health conditions such as depression, cardiovascular disorder, and respiratory illnesses. PTSD and migraine have previously been reported to be symptomatically positively correlated with each other, but little is known about the genes involved,” wrote the investigators.
The study revealed that certain genes are similarly affected in migraines and PTSD. The result suggests that signaling pathways and common genes are involved in both. This might also explain why PTSD and migraine can co-occur frequently.