Auras

The 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.

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.

Depersonalisation
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”.

Derealisation
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.

Paramnesias 
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.

Synaesthesia
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.

Autokinesis
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.

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

Dysmetropsia
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.

Metamorphopsia
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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10 thoughts on “Auras

  1. Thanks for clarifying all of the aspects of aura. Most people (who don’t have migraines) think that aura is limited to odd bursts of light or flashing colors. I have synesthesia but it isn’t limited to when I’m having a migraine. Very odd, and almost impossible to explain to people.

    I now realize that I have anomic aphasia and severe interference with my ability to write without great effort. As a writer, that’s quite discouraging.

  2. After reading the full descrption of auras, I identified that I actually experience a high percentage of them. Not neccasarily all at the same time and not always during a migraine. Is it common to suffer these symptoms outside of a migraine attack and if not does it mean there is permanent damage taking place?

    1. Yes that can happen – and I too have a lot of these and often with no head pain to follow – I went through a few years of what they call persistent aura which is where you have aura 24/7 just at different levels…… It is still a migraine attack – you do not have to have the head pain stage for it to be a migraine (see types of migraine or the 5 potential stages of a migraine)…..no damage should be happening – but if these are new to you – you should let your doctor know x

  3. I had my first experience yesterday and i thought i was having stroke!!!!
    i was advised to see neurologist in order to have an MRA SCAN i wish this will disappear from my life as i have two little daughters who killed me when they were crying while i was experiencing the stroke like phase.
    i wish you get better Tracy , honestly i cried in the last bit of the article when you said your heard your son’s wishing you will get rid of you migraines.

    I would also say the great blessing is when you have a caring husband who is always on your beside to look after you and the kids , (bless him)

    finally ! i hope we will all get over these tragic experience of (hemiplegic migraine)

    regards ,

  4. Has any one has had a really bad tension headache that started in the neck and has had strange speech disturbances? I started to say non-sensical sentences and experienced numbness/tingling on the left side of my face. This lasted maybe 5- 10 minutes.

    Please reply. I am trying to figure out if this was part of an aura phase of a migraine headache.

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