By the use of novel scanning methods doctors have found that cluster headaches are due to excessive gray cells in the brain. It is the section that governs the body clock, which could be responsible for the regularity of the headaches' aspect.
Cluster headaches are marked by a sudden tormenting pain on one side of the head around the eyes, temple or cheek, and can last for 20 minutes to 3 hours. Affecting 0.1% of the population - mainly men - they recur over a period of weeks or months before disappearing, hence their name.
In the past, high-resolution brain scans have shown no abnormalities in the brain structure of cluster headache sufferers. But using the latest imaging techniques, Professor Goadsby and colleagues found an increase of grey matter in an area of the brain known as the hypothalamus on the side where the headache occurs.The finding could revolutionise approaches to all primary headaches, which had not been thought to be caused by factors in the physical structure of the brain, he said.