Headache Controversies

Neurological Sciences

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 52-54

First online:

Is migraine a genetic illness? The various forms of migraine share a common genetic cause

  • Michael Bjørn RussellAffiliated withHead and Neck Research Group, Akershus University HospitalFaculty Division Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo NordbyhagenCenter of Research, Akershus University HospitalDepartment of Neurology, Akershus University Hospital Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Is migraine a genetic illness? This question was previously controversial, but today the answer yes is generally accepted. The scientific evidence is the significantly increased familial risk of migraine, and the significantly higher concordance rate of migraine in monozygotic than dizygotic twin pairs. Finally, the three identified ion-channel genes that can cause familial hemiplegic migraine provide very strong evidence of genetics. Mutations in these genes can also cause sporadic hemiplegic migraine. The next question is whether the different types of migraine, i.e. migraine without aura, migraine with aura, sporadic hemiplegic migraine and familial hemiplegic migraine share a common genetic cause. This question is at present controversial. However, the fact that all types of migraine are paroxystic in nature suggest that a common genetic cause could be mutations in ion channels, although a common mutation has not yet been identified in the more common types of migraine: migraine without aura and migraine with aura.


Migraine without aura Migraine with aura Hemiplegic migraine Genetics