Selective decreased grey matter volume of the pain-matrix network in cluster headache

Martina Absinta, Maria A Rocca, Bruno Colombo, Andrea Falini, Giancarlo Comi, Massimo Filippi
Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache 2012, 32 (2): 109-15

AIM: We assessed the pattern of regional white matter and grey matter abnormalities in patients with cluster headache (CH), using tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM).

METHODS: Using a 3.0 Tesla scanner, dual-echo, diffusion tensor and 3D T1-weighted scan were acquired from 15 patients with episodic CH and 19 healthy controls. TBSS analysis was performed using the FMRIB's Diffusion Toolbox. VBM was performed on the 3D T1-weighted images using SPM8.

RESULTS: No diffusivity and volumetry abnormalities of brain white matter were detected in CH patients. Compared with controls, CH patients showed decreased grey matter volume in the right thalamus, head of the right caudate nucleus, right precentral gyrus, right posterior cingulate cortex, bilateral middle frontal gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus, left inferior parietal lobule and left insula (p < 0.001). They also had increased grey matter volume of the right cuneus. The results did not change after hemisphere mirroring in the five patients with left lateralized attacks. The decreased left middle frontal gyrus volume was significantly correlated with disease duration (r = -0.79, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: CH patients experience tissue abnormalities of grey matter regions that are part of the antinociceptive system, which is shared with other chronic pain conditions.

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