By: Mardi Chapman on: Wed 10 of Feb, 2010

'Ouch' moments are common when you're young and learning to ride a bike or climb a tree but some children also experience pain that is much more complex.

New research at the Griffith Institute for Health and Medical Research (GIHMR) is investigating the intriguing condition of migraine in children.

GIHMR director Professor Lyn Griffiths said children can be diagnosed with the condition from as young as four or five years of age.

It's not always obvious because it can be difficult for young children to articulate the pain they are feeling. Parents who have migraine themselves are probably most likely to recognise the symptoms in their children, she said.

Classic migraine symptoms include severe, intermittent head pain; nausea and vomiting; and sensitivity to loud noise or light.

However migraine symptoms in children can also be different to those experienced by adults. They may experience unexplained abdominal pain or no pain at all.

Professor Griffiths said 20 to 30 per cent of children also experience migraine aura -the vision disturbances such as flashing or blurring that can precede the head pain.

My son had migraine as a child and used to talk about the alien shape he could see, Professor Griffiths said.

In very rare cases, children can also experience a partial paralysis known as familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM).

Griffith's Genomics Research Centre is currently the only accredited laboratory in Australia and New Zealand to perform DNA testing for FHM and other known gene mutations associated with migraine.

New research, led by chief investigator Dr Natalie Colson, aims to expand our understanding of migraine in primary school aged children and they are calling for affected families to help. The research involves filling in a questionnaire and donating a saliva sample for DNA testing.

Professor Griffiths said the research aims to identify other specific genes involved in early onset migraine. A number of genes are known to increase susceptibility to migraine including hormone receptor genes which explain the much higher rates of migraine in females than males after puberty.

To participate in the study, contact research coordinator Merilyn Sanders 07 55529045, or chief investigator Dr Natalie Colson.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Professor Lyn Griffiths 07 5552 8664 or Health Communications Officer Mardi Chapman 07 5552 9089, 0408 727 706.