If you think migraine aura is just seeing odd stuff… think again

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Migraine aura is the complex of neurological or neuropsychological symptoms. It is the second stage of a migraine attack. However, not all migraine sufferers experience aura. But for those whom do it can be a very frightening experience and at times even worse than the headache stage.  But most people think aura is just the flashy lines or dots in front of the eyes, but this another misconception, Migraine aura can effect all parts of the body and in some most odd ways.  Even those people whom have the visual aura may experience other things which they have not linked to Migraine.

So what other types of Aura  are there?

Aura can be broken down into 4 groups:

1 Sensory disturbances
2 Motor disturbances
3 Verbal disturbances
4 Visual disturbances
1 Sensory

Somatosensory symptoms

Numbness, prickling sensations, things crawling on you – these are often just one sided.

Body image disturbances
Macro and microsomatognosia (feeling larger or smaller, known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome), facial metamorphosis, out-of-body experiences and felt presences.

Near-death experiences
A near-death experience (NDE) refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body; feelings of levitation; extreme fear; total serenity, security, or warmth; the experience of absolute dissolution; and the presence of a light.

This is a malfunction or anomaly of the individuals self-awareness. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation. Sufferers feel they have changed, and the world has become less real, vague, dreamlike, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a “dream”.

This is where you feel separated from the outside world, such as a sensory fog, a pane of glass, or a veil. Individuals may complain that what they see lacks vividness and emotional coloring. Emotional response to visual recognition of loved ones may be significantly reduced. Feelings of déjà vu or jamais vu are common. Familiar places may look alien, bizarre, and surreal.

Auditory symptoms
Problems with hearing – This can include tinnitus (buzzing sounds, ringing in ears) mild hearing loss, difficulty understand speech

Gustatory symptoms
This is illusions or hallucinations of taste.

Olfactory symptoms
Hallucinations of odours and smells not actually present.

Déjà vu – the experience of feeling sure that you have already witnessed or experienced a current situation.

Jamais vu – a sense of eeriness, you get the impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before.

Forced reminiscence
Uprush of long-forgotten memories or dreams – dream-like state

Dreaming disturbance
Unusual powerful, vivid or weird dreams, nightmares, recurring dreams and other migraine aura symptoms experienced whilst dreaming.

from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), “together,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), “sensation,” is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported. One common form is known as grapheme – colour synesthesia – letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colour. In another form numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. Or visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker.

Time perception disturbances
“time flys abnormally fast” — opposite of marijuana’s affect on sense of time.
2 Motor

  • Paralysis
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Painless sensation [tactile hallucination] of coldness
  • Tactile hallucinations of movement
  • Impaired coordination
  • Involuntary movements

3 Verbal disturbances

Dysphasic aura
Speech and/or language symptoms:

  • Stuttering
  • Involuntary vocalisations
  • Paralysis of speech muscles
  • Global aphasia – Language disorder involving severe impairments in both comprehension and production.
  • Anomic aphasia – ‘loss of a word’ often the sufferer knowns the word and may even be able to see it – but can not actually say it.
  • Reading disturbances
  • – Writing disturbances

4 Visual disturbances

Visual aura is the most common of auras. A visual aura is like an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the visual cortex of your brain. It is possible to see this via a MRI. As the activation spreads during an aura, a person loses normal visual function.

The best known visual aura is called a fortification spectrum because its pattern resembles the walls of a medieval fort. It may start as a small hole of light or sometimes as bright geometrical lines and shapes in your visual field.This visual aura may expand into a sickle- or C-shaped object, with zigzag lines on the leading edge.

Illusion of apparent movement of stationary objects

Cinematographic vision
Visual illusion whereby the normal perception of moving objects is replaced by seeing a series of “stills” as in a film run too slowly

Corona phenomenon
Light or colour round an object.

Commonly known as double vision, it is the perception of two images of a single object beginning seen at the same time.

Visual illusions involving an alteration in the size or separation of visual objects.

  • Macropsia – objects are perceived larger than normal, causing you to feel smaller.
  • Micropsia – objects are perceived to be smaller than they actually are, causing you to feel larger.
  • Pelopsia – objects appear nearer than they actually are.
  • Teleopsia – objects appear much further away than they actually are.

Illusory visual splitting, tilted vision, inverted vision
Illusions whereby the entire visual environment or objects are rotated by less than 90°, by 90° or by 180°, respectively, so that the visual targets appear tilted, turned to a right angle or turned upside down.

Where objects appear to be distorted

Mosaic illusion
Fracture of the visual image into pieces dovetailed together as in a mosaic

Polyopia /Palinopsia
Vision of multiple images. (Greek: palin for “again” and opsia for “seeing”) is a visual disturbance that causes images to persist to some extent even after their corresponding stimulus has left. These images are known as afterimages and occur in persons with normal vision.

Visual loss
Also known as scotoma, this can range from partial lost to complete loss.

Visual hallucinations

  • Random form dimension
  • Line form dimension
  • Curve form dimension
  • Web form dimension
  • Lattice form dimension
  • Tunnel form dimension
  • Spiral form dimension
  • Kaleidoscope form dimension
  • Floaters
  • Soft focus
  • Snow

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6 thoughts on “If you think migraine aura is just seeing odd stuff… think again


    This is my story, sorry for my bad English 🙂

    I experienced “dream flashbacks” during the day. For no reason in particular I will start to recall some element of what I am sure I can only have dreamed or hallucinated. I am awake and aware of what is happening, but the vague images in my mind (which I can never remember afterwards) are accompanied by dizziness, nausea and fear. Experience is mostly confusing and disturbing. It goes afrer few seconds. I never remember dream picture in my head after. Like I am in dream for few seconds. Also I suffered from anxiety. This is very disturbing… Should I be worried??? This happening for 5 years on and off…


  2. Wow thank you so much for posting this on auras. I always thought I never had them because like you stated I assumed it meant flashing lights and such. But this explains my unexplained feeling of being tall for no reason and many more things on this list.
    I had a spell the other day of almost fainting at work, paramedics called out and everything, that my doctor said could be migraine related which brought me to your site. All this time I thought I don’t have auras I don’t understand how I could of progressed to fainting spells but now as I go down the list I can see that my auras have progressed over time.
    Wish I knew this 15 or so years ago! Not that it would have affected my treatment much I imagine.
    Thank you again!

  3. Hi Toni – I experience ‘forced reminiscence’ – the exact same symptoms you describe – it’s like falling back into an old, familiar dream that somehow feels triggered by something – and a feeling of panic or anxiety that goes along with it. Sometimes I get pins and needles in my face, sometimes I get a racing heart – and I notice a pattern of getting these for a few days then I’m fine for a few weeks. I can never remember what the actual ‘dream’ is – it’s brief but very familiar, and when I’m experiencing it I try really hard to concentrate and follow the ‘dream’ but then in a few seconds it fades and is lost with barely a memory of it at all. A few times I’ve actually written down what was happening during the episode only to find that once I ‘awaken’ and read what I wrote I am perplexed as to what I was writing about! I used to get flashing lights years ago, but never the headache, just the auras. Now they seem to have ‘morphed’ into these ‘forced reminiscence’ episodes for the past 3 years and I’m hoping they go away soon for good!

    Thanks and if anyone has any similar experiences I’d love to hear about them!

  4. Excellent, excellent article! Thank you! I was aware of many of these as I have experienced some and learned or others through research. However, some listed here were new to me. I have pinned to my pinterest board to help spread awareness.

  5. I have suffered With migraines for 32 years. Last week I had fallen asleep for only 5 minutes but woke up feeling as if I had dreamed my life. I felt as if I had died. I then panicked. Since then my migraine has been the worst it has ever been. This information has been interesting and nice to b know it’s related to my migraines.

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