Multi-disciplinary Collaboration in Migraine Research: A Call to Arms

Migraine awareness month 2014
July 11, 2014
Jim Carleton
Multi-disciplinary collaboration in migraine research: A call to arms

The Fable of the 7 Blind Men and the Elephant (slightly revised)

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! It is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant, and all of them asserted that he was right. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot decide as to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told the wise man what he thought the elephant resembled. The wise man evenly explained to them, “All of you are correct. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”

“Oh!” everyone said. The conflict ended. They felt content that in their own way they were right.

-From the Syadvada, Anekantvad, or the theory of Manifold Predictions.


I would submit to you, that migraine research is much like the aforementioned parable. Substitute medical disciplines, like neurology, otolaryngology, dentistry, gastroenterology, genetics and cardiovascular expertise for the blind men, and you see my point. There are many ways of looking at, and judging a common problem. And hopefully, by doing this, we shall find a common vision, leading to a cure. I realize the parable may not be a perfect match, but it gets the point across.

A serious problem, endemic in many professions is that of “siloing”, or territoriality. Many professions are striving to find answers to the migraine problem often working independent of other, related professions. What we would call for is the coming together of multiple, associated professions to collaborate on a cure for this multi-organ, multi-symptom, multi-specialty disorder. That is really at the heart of the Association of Migraine Disorders. We believe that one discipline alone may not, in the fullness of time, have all of the answers needed to eliminate this disease. Input and quality research is required from multiple areas of expertise. It will be through a robust panel of research and treatment from many contributors in different areas that migraine is finally dispatched. Enhanced funding, collaboration, inspired research and much work are among the ingredients needed. But not the least of which is collaboration amongst disciplines. To do this territoriality must be suspended.

So where do we begin? You need to make yourself heard. We at AMD can help amplify your voice to reach the funding sources, particularly the NIH, which can strengthen the movement towards more and better funding. Legitimate, substantial funding attracts talented researchers and these researchers can be moved to collaborate. In addition to public sources we are also pursuing private philanthropy. The economic loss attributed to migraine should interest corporate giving who can draw a straight line between migraine cure and increased productivity. Seldom can that bottom line enhancement be as clearly illustrated as it can in migraine research and potential cure. The prospective increase in yield and efficiency could be transformative.

We are actively working to bring otherwise disparate medical disciplines together to examine this problem, in addition to funding innovative research in the area of migraine disorders. We need your help! Learn about the various migraine disorders, join a “Team Migraine” athletic endeavor, or donate to help move the research along. All of these actions contribute to help raise awareness, eliminate stigma, and work towards an eventual cure for this crippling disease and all of its disturbing manifestations.