What to Expect From the 2021 American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting

With the AHS 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting set to kick-off virtually on June 3, 2021, Jessica Ailani, MD, FAHS, offered her perspective on what to expect from the presentations and sessions.

As June quickly approaches and the southeast coast is drenched in humidity and cicadas, National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month is upon us. One of my favorite events every June is the American Headache Society annual meeting. For a headache specialist, there is no better way to ensure you are up to date with the latest in headache research and celebrate awareness of the disease states we care for daily. This meeting always reinvigorates me to come back to my clinic, battery charged and ready again to make the lives of my patients better.

The American Headache Society Annual Scientific Meeting will be virtual this year to continue to keep safe through the pandemic. While many of us are looking forward to a time when we can be together in person again, there will still be many great events in which we can discuss interesting lectures and abstracts, as well as share research ideas and work together to make the future of headache brighter.

Although networking through virtual lounges does not replace meeting in person, it does allow us to connect with each other and discuss our favorite talks. It also allows for some of my favorite parts of the meeting to occur—debates! Since nothing in medicine is a complete guarantee, I always feel growth comes from our ability to discuss our different points of view and to allow ourselves to be convinced that someone else may be right. The scientific meeting this year will also host 2 formal debates during the program: 1. Should chronic migraine be a separate diagnosis from migraine; and 2. should the criteria for tension-type headache be changed? I always find these debates to be the most entertaining and never end up taking the side I thought I would at the start.

There are many other presentations I am looking forward to, 2 of which are our keynote presentations. The first keynote is on genes, stress, and resilience by Huda Akil, PhD. In a year where we have all been under tremendous stress, I am looking forward to learning more about the science behind resilience. Our second keynote is on how we can learn from other specialty clinical trials to improve diversity in headache research by Richard Benson, MD, PhD. He has extensive experience in stroke clinical trials and has focused on increasing diversity in these trials. We have struggled as a field in being able to increase diversity in headache clinical trials. Personally, I could use some expert tips to improve not only recruitment, but retention, of a diverse patient population into our trials.

Other hot topics in headache science that will be discussed include vaccines and their impact on migraine, contributors to chronic migraine, calcitonin gene-related peptide and its action on the normal and traumatic brain, central nervous system circuits, the descending pain pathway, the nitroglycerin model, cognition and pain processing, sex differences in pain…the list just keeps going and it’s hard to say which session is better—in fact, I invite you to come and participate and let us know what you think!

As you enjoy the start of the summer season, hopefully finally meeting up with friends and family, consider enjoying the offerings of a virtual meeting.

To check out NeurologyLive's coverage of AHS 2021, click here. To register for the American Headache Society Scientific Meeting, click here.