Migraines affect about 15 per cent of the population, with the incidence being two times greater in women than in men. Symptoms of common migraines include pain, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, and smells, sleep disruption, and depression. Progress in developing new treatments has been slow due to a lack in understanding regarding the complex genetic roots of the disorder. Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) is a sub-type of common migraines with similar symptoms, but with simple genetic roots, making FHM a good model for study purposes. Most patients with FHM experience a visual aura – such as shimmering lights, wavy images or temporary vision loss – before the headache starts and varying degrees of paralysis in one side of the body (called hemiparesis). The symptoms can last from a few minutes to several days, in some cases outlasting the headache. About 50 per cent of patients with FHM have mutations in the CACNA1A gene. Paul Adams is investigating these mutations to better understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie migraines – an important step towards developing effective new treatments to alleviate all migraines.