Could you endure such pain, at any hand but hers?

I finally got round to having a look at the New York Times migraine blog and found it full of fantastic writing and some wonderful artwork that aims to capture the perceptual distortions associated with the mother of all headaches.

There’s a particularly good article by Oliver Sacks (his first book was on migraine) who discusses the common geometrical patterns that can occur in the hallucinatory images, known as a form constants.

Interesting, the mathematician Paul Bressloff has suggested [pdf] that these necessarily arise when the firing of neurons in the primary visual cortex is destabilised.

Although Bressloff was particularly addressing certain hallucinations caused by psychedelic drugs, the form constants are, well, constant across conditions, so are likely to arise from a similar process in migraines too.

There are many more articles describing the science, personal stories and art of the head pounding, vision distorting and stomach churning headache. The gallery is particularly good if you’re not familiar with the range of visual effects.

However, no one seems to have touched on a poem by Robert Graves where he uses migraine as a metaphor for love (or is it the other way round?) capturing the beauty and pain of both.

Symptoms of Love

Love is universal migraine,
A bright stain on the vision
Blotting out reason.

Symptoms of true love
Are leanness, jealousy,
Laggard dawns;

Are omens and nightmares -
Listening for a knock,
Waiting for a sign:

For a touch of her fingers
In a darkened room,
For a searching look.

Take courage, lover!
Could you endure such pain
At any hand but hers?

Link to NYT’s Migraine Blog (via Neurophilosophy).

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