Migraine is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system causing painful attacks of headache. A genetic vulnerability and exposure to environmental triggers can influence the migraine phenotype. Migraine interferes in many facets of people’s daily life including employment commitments and their ability to look after their families resulting in a reduced quality of life. Identification of the biological processes that underlie this relatively common affliction has been difficult because migraine does not have any clearly identifiable pathology or structural lesion detectable by current medical technology. Theories to explain the symptoms of migraine have focused on the physiological mechanisms involved in the various phases of headache and include the vascular and neurogenic theories. In relation to migraine pathophysiology the trigeminovascular system and cortical spreading depression have also been implicated with supporting evidence from imaging studies and animal models. The objective of current research is to better understand the pathways and mechanisms involved in causing pain and headache to be able to target interventions. The genetic component of migraine has been teased apart using linkage studies and both candidate gene and genome-wide association studies, in family and case-control cohorts. Genomic regions that increase individual risk to migraine have been identified in neurological, vascular and hormonal pathways. This review discusses knowledge of the pathophysiology and genetic basis of migraine with the latest scientific evidence from genetic studies.
Keywords: Migraine, Migraine with aura, Migraine without aura, Familial hemiplegic migraine, Molecular genetics, Genes.