There’s no doubt that migraine is a debilitating condition but Dutch researchers have pinpointed at least one possible benefit for sufferers.

Middle-aged migraineurs tend to outperform the migraine-free on a range of memory and cognitive tests, the researchers have found.

And having migraine with aura in particular seems to improve cognition, they say.

The researchers from Rotterdam looked at a population of over 6,700 middle-aged and elderly people, finding a migraine prevalence of around 10-15%.

Compared with the rest of the study group, migraine sufferers scored an average 21% higher in the Mini Mental State Examination – a questionnaire used by doctors to assess brain function. They also had improved global cognition in a range of other cognitive tests, including a 15-word memory test and a fine motor skills task.

In particular, migraineurs performed better on executive function tests and fine motor skills assessments than non-migraineurs.

This finding contrasts with earlier research showing either no difference in cognition between those with migraine and those without, or worse processing speed among migraineurs.

Researchers speculate that better vascularisation (blood vessel development) and cerebral blood flow in migraine sufferers could underlie their improved cognitive performance.

Last Reviewed: 28/06/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from


Migraine is associated with better cognition in the middle-aged and elderly: the Rotterdam Study. European Journal of Neurology 2016