KCBS 2 television reporter Serene Branson’s garbled speech during a live Grammy broadcast last Sunday was not the result of a small stroke as many have speculated but was instead a symptom of a “complex migraine,” according to her physician, Dr. Neil Martin, chief of neurosurgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Martin received permission from Branson to discuss her condition publicly.
Branson appeared fine when she appeared on air following the awards show, but her words made no sense, and the show’s producers immediately cut away from her and paramedics were called. She recovered quickly and was taken home.
A complex migraine can mimic the symptoms of a stroke, with weakness, loss of vision and difficulty speaking, in addition to a headache. It is often mistaken for a stroke.
As the medical information website HealthCentral.com explains, “one theory about the cause of migraines is that blood vessels in the brain suddenly narrow (or spasm) and then dilate. ” When they dilate, the headache develops. But “during the spasm phase, certain parts of the brain may receive too little blood, and this may cause the stroke-like symptoms…. The neurological symptoms are nearly always temporary.”