Body clock gene variations may lead to stress migraines

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A new study suggests that stress may lead to migraines in those with certain genetic variations that regulate our sleep-wakefulness cycle.
New research has suggested that financial worries may cause migraines in people who have two specific variations in a gene that regulates our biological clock.

Our so-called biological clock is the collective name given to a range of interacting molecules that regulate our sleep-wakefulness cycle and the bodily and behavioral changes that go with it.

New research examines the link between this clock – which is also regulated genetically – and the risk of developing migraines.

The first author of the study is Daniel Baksa, of Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, and the findings were recently presented at the ENCP Congress, held in Paris, France.

As the authors explain, their research was prompted by previous studies suggesting that people with mood disorders often have symptoms that signal a disruption of their circadian rhythm.

Additionally, other studies referenced by the authors have pointed to a link between mood disorders and certain variations in the genes associated with the circadian rhythm, as well as to a genetic link between mood disorders and migraine.

Stressors have been shown to trigger migraines by disrupting the body’s rhythmicity, and all of this existing evidence made the researchers wonder whether circadian genes might also play a role in the development of migraines.

Studying migraines, stress, and clock genes

Baksa and colleagues recruited a total of 2,349 participants from Budapest and Manchester in the United Kingdom and asked them to report on whether or not they had migraines using the ID-Migraine Questionnaire.

The CLOCK gene is the main genetic component of the circadian clock. Therefore, the researchers zoomed in on it, screening the participants for two single nucleotide polymorphisms, or variants, of the CLOCK gene.

The participants were also asked to fill in a financial questionnaire, and the researchers defined chronic stress in relation to financial worries.

Baksa and team tested the effects of the CLOCK gene variants on migraine statistically by applying logistic regression models and adjusting the analysis for population, gender, and age.

At first, the study found no link between the CLOCK gene variants and migraine, but when they added financial stress into the mix, the results changed.

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