How Sex Hormones Affect Migraine: An Interdisciplinary Preclinical Research Panel Review

Frederick Godley, John Meitzen, Hadas Nahman-Averbuch, Mary Angela O’Neal, David Yeomans, Nanette Santoro, Nina Riggins, Lars Edvinsson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sex hormones and migraine are closely interlinked. Women report higher levels of migraine symptoms during periods of sex hormone fluctuation, particularly during puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause. Ovarian steroids, such as estrogen and progesterone, exert complex effects on the peripheral and central nervous systems, including pain, a variety of special sensory and autonomic functions, and affective processing. A panel of basic scientists, when challenged to explain what was known about how sex hormones affect the nervous system, focused on two hormones: estrogen and oxytocin. Notably, other hormones, such as progesterone, testosterone, and vasopressin, are less well studied but are also highlighted in this review. When discussing what new therapeutic agent might be an alternative to hormone therapy and menopause replacement therapy for migraine treatment, the panel pointed to oxytocin delivered as a nasal spray. Overall, the conclusion was that progress in the preclinical study of hormones on the nervous system has been challenging and slow, that there remain substantial gaps in our understanding of the complex roles sex hormones play in migraine, and that opportunities remain for improved or novel therapeutic agents. Manipulation of sex hormones, perhaps through biochemical modifications where its positive effects are selected for and side effects are minimized, remains a theoretical goal, one that might have an impact on migraine disease and other symptoms of menopause. This review is a call to action for increased interest and funding for preclinical research on sex hormones, their metabolites, and their receptors. Interdisciplinary research, perhaps facilitated by a collaborative communication network or panel, is a possible strategy to achieve this goal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • estrogen
  • migraine
  • oxytocin
  • progesterone
  • prolactin
  • sex hormones
  • testosterone
  • vasopressin


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