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What is migraine?

Migraine is not just a bad headache. It is an extremely debilitating collection of neurological symptoms that usually includes a severe recurring intense throbbing pain on one side of the head (although in 1/3 of migraine attacks,  both sides are affected). Attacks generally last between 4 and 72 hours, and in addition to head pain, are often accompanied by one or more of the following: visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell, and tingling or numbness in the extremities or face. Of course, everyone is different, and symptoms vary by person and sometimes by attack.

Why is migraine such a challenging disease to treat?

Migraine is difficult to treat because it is a moving target: symptoms are hard to evaluate and can change from one attack to the next. Diagnosing someone with migraine can be quite difficult. Since symptoms vary widely, migraine is often misdiagnosed and about half of all sufferers are never diagnosed. Diagnosing a migraine involves analyzing the symptoms, conducting medical tests, and eliminating other possible causes of the headache. Some people suffer from several different types of migraine and/or headaches, making diagnosis and effective treatment that much more difficult.

What are the social and economic implications of migraine?

The social and economic costs are enormous. About 36 million Americans – roughly 10% of the total population – suffer from migraine. American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to headache or migraine. Around 14 million people suffer from chronic daily headache, when attacks come nealy daily and treatment is extremely difficult and costly. Chronic headache sufferers are part of the legions of Americans with chronic pain who consume an enormous amount of healthcare services, with an estimated annual cost of $50 billion. And socially, in addition to the attack-related disability itself, many sufferers live in fear, knowing that at any time an attack could disrupt their ability to work or go to school, care for their families or enjoy social activities.

Who is most affected by migraine?

Migraine affects people of all ages. However, women are disproportionately affected, with approximately 27 million sufferers in the United States. Three times as many women as men suffer from migraine in adulthood. Many people are surprised to learn that about 10% of school-age children suffer from migraine. Half of all migraine sufferers have their first attack before the age of 12. Children who suffer are absent from school twice as often as children without migraine.

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About the Migraine Research Foundation (MRF)

What is the Migraine Research Foundation?

The Migraine Research Foundation is the only organization whose sole purpose is to raise funds for innovative scientific research to further the understanding of the causes of migraine, to develop improvements in treatments for sufferers, and to find the cure.  MRF provides more funding for migraine research than any other 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in the U.S.

How is MRF filling the funding gap?

In spite of the vast prevalence of migraine and its serious and debilitating effects, migraine is  still a poorly understood disease.  Basic scientific research into its underlying causes is severely under-funded. At present, NIH funding for migraine research is $9 million – less than 0.03% of the annual NIH research budget. MRF‘s goal is to fill this critical gap in migraine research.

Where does MRF’s funding come from?

The Migraine Research Foundation has the support of an expanding donor base dedicated to funding innovative migraine research. MRF‘s operating costs are completely underwritten, so 100% of all contributions go where they are needed most-directly to migraine research.

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About the Migraine Research Foundation Grants

How does MRF determine which grants it will fund?

MRF has a distinguished medical advisory board comprised of fourteen of the nation’s pre-eminent migraine doctors and researchers. They review and discuss all grant proposals, considering their innovation, importance, achievability, and relevance to advancing the science of migraine medicine, and advise MRF’s Board of Directors in making funding decisions.

Who are the members of MRF’s medical advisory board?

In addition to the chair, Dr. Joel Saper (Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute, Ann Arbor, MI), MRF‘s medical advisory board includes: Sheena Aurora, MD, Swedish Pain and Headache Center, Seattle, WA; Rami Burstein, PhD, Harvard University, Boston, MA; Andrew Charles, MD,  David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; F. Michael Cutrer, MD, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN; Fred Freitag, DO, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX; Peter J. Goadsby, MD, PhD, University of California at San Francisco; Andrew Hershey, MD, PhD, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center; Richard B. Lipton, MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY; Todd Schwedt, MD, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; Gretchen Tietjen, MD, University of Toledo; Linda Watkins, PhD, University of Colorado at Boulder; David W. Dodick, MD, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ (Emeritus);  and Stephen D. Silberstein, MD, Jefferson University Headache Center, Philadelphia, PA (Emeritus)

What research has MRF funded?

Trent Anderson, PhD (2010) University of Arizona College Of Medicine, Phoenix, AZ
Neurosteroid Regulation of Cortical Spreading Depression
Investigating how hormones produced and acting in the brain contribute to the development of migraine.

Anna Andreou, PhD (2010 – Heftler New Investigator Award) University of California, San Francisco Corticothalamic feedback and trigeminothalamic sensory processing during cortical spreading depression-relevance to migraine with aura.
Investigating activation of the thalamus during cortical spreading depression to better understand the development of migraine and auras.

Brandon Aylward, PhD and Scott Powers, PhD (2010) Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH
The Multidimensional Impact of Migraine in Adolescents Presenting to Specialty Care
Examining the broad impact of pediatric migraine in adolescents presenting to specialty care.

Emily Bates, PhD (2011 – Heftler New Investigator Award) Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Finding the Molecular Mechanism of Casein Kinase 1δ Mediated Migraine
Studying the effect of a genetic mutation responsible for migraine with aura in casein kinase 1δ on estrogen signaling.

Nancy Berman, PhD (2008) University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS
A Behavioral Model of Menstrual Migraine
Studying how estrogen levels regulate central and peripheral sensitization that lead to chronic pain.

David Borsook, MD, PhD (2008) McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA
Mapping Functional Brain Circuits in a Rodent Model of Central Sensitization
Using functional MRI to measure changes in brain circuits before and after central sensitization.

Yu-Qing Cao, PhD (2009) Washington University Pain Center, St. Louis, MO
The Effects of Calcium Channel Mutations on Trigeminal Ganglion Neurons Innervating the Dura
Studying the effects of calcium channel mutations on nerves in the dura which contribute to migraine.

Andrew Charles, MD (2008) David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Central Mechanisms of Opioids in the Transformation of Migraine
Investigating the ways in which acute vs. chronic opioid administration may influence migraine by studying their effect on cortical spreading depression.

F. Michael Cutrer, M.D. (2008) Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Investigation of the Genetic Basis of Migraine: Building a DNA Library in Migraine Sufferers
Establishing a DNA library of well characterized migraineurs and matched controls in a searchable electronic database.

Alexandre DaSilva, DDS, DMedSc (2010) University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI
Endogenous Opioid Mechanisms in Chronic Migraine
Examining the effects of chronic migraine and its influence on neurotransmitter function of the endogenous opioid system, one of the main mechanisms associated with chronic pain modulation.

Teresa Esposito, PhD (2009) Institute of Genetics and Biophysics, Naples, Italy
The Role of Ionotropic Glutamate Receptor Genes in Migraine
Identifying glutamate receptor genes which may be associated with migraine with aura.

Golda Ginsburg, PhD (2009) Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
A Pilot Study of Family-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treating Chronic Pediatric Headache/Migraine and Comorbid Anxiety
Testing a novel cognitive behavioral therapy model for children with migraine and comorbid anxiety.

Richard Kraig, MD, PhD (2010) The University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL
Preclinical Development of Nasal Insulin as a Therapy for Chronic Migraine
Studying a mechanism by which brain activity can retard migraine susceptibility.

Richard Kraig, MD, PhD
(2009) University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, IL
Microglia and Cytokines Modulate Chronic Migraine
Investigating how inflammatory proteins alter brain excitability and lead to chronic migraine.

Richard Lipton, MD (2007) Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Towards a Migraine Genetics Population Laboratory: Building on the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study
Testing a method of collecting DNA by mail from headache sufferers as the first step to building a genetic database on migraine.

Michael Oshinsky, PhD (2007)  Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 
Glial Activation and the Chronification of Headache
Studying the transition of episodic migraine to chronic daily headache, a severely disabling condition affecting 4% of the US population.

Frank Porreca, PhD (2007)  University of Arizona, Tucson
Behavioral Model of Medication Overuse Headache
Researching why migraine sufferers often experience not only a headache, but also sensitivity to touch.

Marcela Romero Reyes, DDS, PhD  (2009 – Heftler New Investigator Award) NYU School of Dentistry, NY, NY
The effect of the CGRP receptor antagonist BIBN4096BS on the response to trigeminal nociception, activation and pro-inflammatory cytokine release
Using a new behavioral model of craniofacial pain in mice to expand the understanding of pain regulation and help in the development of improved preventive migraine treatments.

Ann Scher, PhD (2007)  Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD
Migraine in Middle Age and Late Life: A Longitudinal Analysis of Factors Related to Migraine Prognosis in a Large Population-Based Cohort
Examining the relationship between migraine in middle age and stroke in a group of Icelandic adults.

Markus Schürks, MD, MSc and Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD (2009) Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA
Identification of Genetic Determinants of the Association Between Migraine and Cardiovascular Events: A Genome-Wide Association Study

Todd Smitherman, PhD (2010) University of Mississippi Medical Center, Oxford, MS
Efficacy of Behavioral Insomnia Treatment for Chronic Migraine: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study
Testing the efficacy of a brief behavioral insomnia treatment on headache and sleep symptoms among patients with chronic migraine and insomnia.

Patric Stanton, PhD (2010) New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY
N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor Glycine Coagonist Site Modulation as a Potential Treatment for Migraine
Investigating new therapies for preventing the wave of neural depolarization associated with migraine.

Julie Wieseler, PhD and Linda Watkins, PhD (2009) University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO
Why Opioids Enhance Migraine Pain: The Puzzle Points to Glia
Studying whether glial inhibitors improve the effectiveness of opioid treatment for migraine.

Colin Willis, PhD (2010) University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, Biddeford, ME
Mechanisms of Blood-Brain Barrier Dysfunction Induced Medication Overuse Headache
Examining changes in the integrity of the blood-brain barrier to see if they explain the increased likelihood of medication induced headache attacks.

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