Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Aura of mystery


It begins as a slowly expanding spot of light or similar visual disturbance, often accompanied by phantom noises and other sensory distortions. People who experience such 'auras' know all too well that these early warning signs will culminate in a head-splitting migraine, yet scientists have little idea what causes the debilitating deluge of symptoms. Elie Dolgin talks to neurologists hoping to change that—by triggering auras in the laboratory in order to study them.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout


  1. Hougaard, A., Amin, F.M., Hauge, A.W., Ashina, M. & Olesen, J. Neurology 80, 428–431 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Cao, Y., Aurora, S.K., Nagesh, V., Patel, S.C. & Welch, K.M. Neurology 59, 72–78 (2002).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Hadjikhani, N. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98, 4687–4692 (2001).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Hansen, J.M., Schytz, H.W., Larsen, V.A., Iversen, H.K. & Ashina, M. Headache 51, 1289–1296 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Christiansen, I., Thomsen, L.L., Daugaard, D., Ulrich, V. & Olesen, J. Cephalalgia 19, 660–667 (1999).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Afridi, S.K., Kaube, H. & Goadsby, P.J. Pain 110, 675–680 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Sances, G. et al. Cephalalgia 24, 110–119 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. Hansen, J.M., Hauge, A.W., Olesen, J. & Ashina, M. Cephalalgia 30, 1179–1186 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hansen, J.M. et al. Cephalalgia 28, 367–375 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hansen, J.M., Thomsen, L.L., Olesen, J. & Ashina, M. Cephalalgia 28, 496–505 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Hansen, J.M., Thomsen, L.L., Olesen, J. & Ashina, M. Neurology 71, 841–847 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Hansen, J.M., Thomsen, L.L., Olesen, J. & Ashina, M. Headache 51, 544–553 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Olesen, J. et al. Ann. Neurol. 28, 791–798 (1990).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Jaillard, A.S., Mazetti, P. & Kala, E. Headache 37, 95–101 (1997).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Takano, T. et al. Nat. Neurosci. 10, 754–762 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Schoonman, G.G. et al. Cephalalgia 26, 816–819 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dolgin, E. Aura of mystery. Nat Med 19, 1083–1085 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing