Schrodinger’s Migraine

For many years, starting in my teens, I experienced visual migraine auras. They frightened me a lot at first but later I grew used to them. Over the years the attacks became commoner but no more severe.

They caused no problems, because they were brief and painless episodes. Very luckily for me I never had a headache or any other symptom, only the characteristic pulsating jagged images.

Here’s an impression from memory. These are the classic aura patterns that many migraine sufferers see, and they have a long literature.

A jagged muticolour pattern somewhat like a christmas tree

I wish now I had tried to draw these images more carefully – but too late!

Why? Well the auras, which lasted for about 20 minutes, affected vision in both eyes the same (every time it happened I used to close one eye and squint, but it made no difference), and always appeared in exactly the same place: roughly middle right.

Notice I write in the past. I can’t see them any more.

That’s because where they used to appear is bang in the middle of a blind area (‘scotoma’ is the term) caused by brain damage from a stroke. No vision now where the patterns would have appeared.

Now what has Schrodinger to do with it?

Over the last few years I experienced these migraine auras every few months. But not now. Ever since the stroke, no more aura. Presumably it’s ‘hidden’ behind the scotoma.

If it’s happened at all. How do I know? Am I ‘cured’ of migraine?

I have no way to tell and what does ‘happened’ mean? What is a migraine anyway? It seems to be a neurological condition but even that explains little.

About 16 hours after the stroke I was with a specialist who suggested migraine was a ‘vascular event’ (something to do with blood flow to the brain in other words). I don’t think I am just imagining this. At the time I’m pretty sure I thought (and remember I was having a very bad day) that the origin of migraine was in fact very controversial and not pinned down to blood flow. But it wasn’t a good time to discuss the matter.

The commonest explanation for migraine seems to be some sort of seizure. But where (and what is a seizure?). Is it in the part of my brain that is (frankly) dead or (even more frankly, sorry, missing, because neuron death leads to a cavity)? So is there no seizure? Or were the seizures somewhere else but the bit of my brain that used to ‘see’ these purely internal images no longer recognizes them? Or maybe the seizures were spread over a large area of the brain but always focused on the same brain region where the damage has occurred?

So I am a little like the reverse of the cat in Schrodinger’s famous box. I cannot tell by introspection if I have had a migraine. But perhaps an observer outside the black box of my head could use a scan to observe the seizure. But would that tell them what my experience was, or wasn’t? I don’t think it would.

I think this is all very intriguing and I don’t think there are any easy answers. Perhaps not even difficult ones.




About partialinsight

One evening I had a stroke. Half my sight vanished overnight. Adapting made me grasp how amazing the visual system and brain are. It also taught me to understand disability completely differently and I'm grateful for the lesson.
This entry was posted in Blindness and visual impairment, Stroke, Disability, Cognition, The brain and visual perception, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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