Study May Yield Headache Clue

One million Americans, mostly men, suffer from cluster headaches, which come in sudden bursts of stabbing, burning pain. A recent study suggests that the condition may be caused by an abnormality in the brain, reports CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay.

This week, British scientists published an article in the journal Nature Medicine in which they compared the brains of men who suffer from cluster headaches and men who don't.

Computer images showed no differences at first glance. But when the researchers looked more closely at a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, they found that the hypothalamus in men who suffer from cluster headaches was structured differently from those in men who had no headaches.

The hypothalamus is a small section of the brain that, among other things, controls the body's biological clock. This may explain why cluster headaches come with so much regularity that they are often called "alarm clock" headaches.

The findings mark the first time that scientists have been able to find an actual abnormality in the brain associated with headaches. In the past, doctors thought the causes of most serious headaches were related to the function of the brain.

The results could lead researchers to take a closer look at other kinds of headaches, like migraines -- which affect 25 million Americans -- to see if there is some structural difference in the brain which might be treated.

Reported By Dr. Emily Senay