Grey matter changes associated with medication-overuse headache: correlations with disease related disability and anxiety

Franz Riederer, Marvin Marti, Roger Luechinger, Rupert Lanzenberger, Jan von Meyenburg, Andreas R Gantenbein, Roberto Pirrotta, Charly Gaul, Spyridon Kollias, Peter S Sándor
World Journal of Biological Psychiatry 2012, 13 (7): 517-25

OBJECTIVES: Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is associated with psychiatric comorbidities. Neurobiological similarities to substance dependence have been suggested. This study investigated grey matter changes, focussing on pain and reward systems.

METHODS: Using voxel-based morphometry, structural MRIs were compared between 29 patients with both, MOH and migraine, according to International Headache Society criteria, and healthy controls. The Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) score was used. Anxiety and depression were screened for with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and confirmed by a psychiatrist, using the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview.

RESULTS: Nineteen patients (66%) had a present or past psychiatric disorder, mainly affective (N = 11) and anxiety disorders (N = 8). In all patients a significant increase of grey matter volume (GMV) was found in the periaqueductal grey matter of the midbrain, which correlated positively with the MIDAS and the HADS-anxiety subscale. A GMV increase was found bilaterally in the thalamus, and the ventral striatum. A significant GMV decrease was detected in frontal regions including orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, the left and right insula, and the precuneus.

CONCLUSION: These findings are consistent with dysfunction of antinociceptive systems in MOH, which is influenced by anxiety. Dysfunction of the reward system may be a neurobiological basis for dependence in a subgroup of MOH patients.

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