Cognitive impairment in children and adolescents with migraine

Cristiano Termine*, Beatrice Bartoli, Massimo A. Agosti, Andrea E. Cavanna, Umberto Balottin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter, comment/opinion or interviewpeer-review


The presence and characteristics of cognitive alterations in children and adolescents affected by
migraine have been largely under-investigated. Childhood and adolescence are key periods for
personal growth and academic achievements, and migraine-related cognitive deficits may interfere
with functioning levels across several settings. A careful analysis of cognitive impairment in
the context of migraine is pivotal for making informed decisions on the most appropriate care
We therefore critically evaluated the results of research studies conducted to date on cognitive
function in children and adolescents affected by migraine using the Pubmed database. The
literature search was limited to original articles published in English language and focused on
current research trends. We operationally defined cognitive processing as the range of individual
cognitive functions assessed by neuropsychological studies. Our analysis, which did not include
findings on cognitive processing assessed by neurophysiological measures for methodological
consistency, led us to formulate the opinion that young patients affected by migraine may present
with specific cognitive deficits.
An early neuropsychological study on young patients with migraine was conducted in 1989 on a
group of 20 children affected by migraine without aura, aged between 7 and 11. The authors of this
study did not identify clinically relevant impairment in cognitive performance, with the exception
of impaired functioning in short and long-term memory tasks (1). A few years later, Haverkamp
et al. (2) reported no significant differences between children with migraine aged 6–12 years and
their healthy siblings on a measure of sequential and simultaneous information processing (2).
Contrarily, Riva et al. (3) reported significant alterations in the information processing rate
only. Patients with migraine showed delayed reaction times to visual stimuli compared to healthy
controls; interestingly, reaction times were the only parameters showing a significant correlation
with the pattern of headache episodes. The authors hypothesized the existence of reduced rates of
information processing speed within the posterior cortical areas involved in detecting visual stimuli
and within the premotor areas responsible for programming and implementing motor responses.
The findings of this study were however limited by the absence of a matched control group (3).
Original languageEnglish
Article number667
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2018 Termine, Bartoli, Agosti, Cavanna and Balottin. This is an openaccess
article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted,
provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the
original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic
practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply
with these terms.


  • Adolescent
  • Children
  • Cognitive aspect
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Neuropsychology


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