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A Malfunction in the Brain’s Software

software_malfunction“I often say that the software system of the brain now is impaired. And all of the functions that software runs — like your thinking and your behavior, your emotions and your sleep — can potentially be impaired as well.” Although neuropsychologist Gerard Gioia was talking about the brain’s recovery following a concussion, it’s an excellent metaphor for migraine.

I’ve often said that my brain function is at 30% (or some other percentage) during a migraine attack. I’m not confusing mind and brain here (though my mind malfunctions, too). Every bodily function that the brain directs works less effectively than usual during a migraine. You become clumsier, maybe dropping things or walking into walls. Thinking is impaired, so it can be difficult to find words, make sense of written language, or understand what someone else is saying. You may experience vision changes, like blind spots, seeing flashing lights, or blurred or double vision. Your mood swings can be so substantial that you’ll wonder where all this emotion is coming from. Sleep may be impossible or unavoidable. You might even perceive objects—including your own your limbs—to be larger or smaller than usual (Alice in Wonderland syndrome).

These (and many other) symptoms are familiar to people with migraine, but it’s hard to explain it to people who don’t have migraine. Perhaps the software metaphor will make this weird illness called migraine easier to describe.

I’m curious to hear from those of you who have cluster headache, NDPH, tension-type headache, or another headache disorder—do you also feel like your brain is malfunctioning?

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