Brainstem activation specific to migraine headache

Lancet. 2001 Mar 31;357(9261):1016-7. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(00)04250-1.


Findings from functional imaging studies have shown activation of the brainstem during migraine without aura (MWOA) and activation of the hypothalamus during cluster headache. We assessed a patient with cluster headache and migraine by positron emission tomography during an active cluster headache after he had taken 1.2 glyceryl trinitate. The patient developed a typical MWOA, during which we saw activation in the dorsal rostral brainstem. There was no activation in the region of the hypothalamus. Our findings provide evidence that migraine involves the brainstem, and show several areas involved in cluster headaches. Our data show the potential for objective distinction between primary headache syndromes with functional imaging, in disorders hitherto distinguished on clinical grounds.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Stem / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology*
  • Cluster Headache / diagnostic imaging
  • Cluster Headache / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine without Aura / diagnostic imaging
  • Migraine without Aura / physiopathology*
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed


  • Nitroglycerin