Interictal cortical hyperresponsiveness in migraine is directly related to the presence of aura

Ritobrato Datta, Geoffrey K Aguirre, Siyuan Hu, John A Detre, Brett Cucchiara
Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache 2013, 33 (6): 365-74

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare the interictal cortical response to a visual stimulus between migraine with aura (MWA), migraine without aura (MwoA), and control subjects.

METHODS: In a prospective case-control study, blood oxygen level-dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (BOLD fMRI) was used to assess the response to a visual stimulus and arterial spin labeled perfusion MR to determine resting cerebral blood flow. A standardized questionnaire was used to assess interictal visual discomfort.

RESULTS: Seventy-five subjects (25 MWA, 25 MwoA, and 25 controls) were studied. BOLD fMRI response to visual stimulation within primary visual cortex was greater in MWA (3.09 ± 0.15%) compared to MwoA (2.36 ± 0.13%, P  = 0.0008) and control subjects (2.47 ± 0.11%, P  = 0.002); responses were also greater in the lateral geniculate nuclei in MWA. No difference was found between MwoA and control groups. Whole brain analysis showed that increased activation in MWA was confined to the occipital pole. Regional resting cerebral blood flow did not differ between groups. MWA and MwoA subjects had significantly greater levels of interictal visual discomfort compared to controls ( P  = 0.008 and P  = 0.005, respectively), but this did not correlate with BOLD response.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite similar interictal symptoms of visual discomfort, only MWA subjects have cortical hyperresponsiveness to visual stimulus, suggesting a direct connection between cortical hyperresponsiveness and aura itself.

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