Visual contrast processing in migraine

Cephalalgia. 2000 Dec;20(10):865-80. doi: 10.1046/j.1468-2982.2000.00119.x.


Some migraine sufferers report certain visual patterns can reliably trigger a migraine attack, such as high contrast striped patterns or flickering lights. Differences between people with and without migraine on tasks that involve these patterns have been attributed to abnormal cortical processing in migraine, although the locus and extent of the abnormality remains unclear, as is any relationship between impairment on various visual tasks. In this study 58 migraine sufferers and 61 control subjects participated in three visual tasks involving striped patterns. One assessed pattern sensitivity with high contrast patterns, the second detection thresholds for low contrast patterns and the third supra-threshold contrast scaling. With each measure, the performance of migraine sufferers as a group differed to the performance of non-migraine control subjects. There were no significant differences between the migraine subgroups when classified according to the presence or absence of aura. Cross-correlating the results from the three tasks, however, revealed consistent associations: impaired or extreme responses on one task were associated with impaired or extreme responses on the others. There were no overall effects due to migraine duration, the frequency of migraine attacks or the time since the last attack. These results are discussed in the context of visually induced migraine, proposed causes of abnormal cortical function in migraine and the prospects for developing clinically useful tests of visual function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Contrast Sensitivity* / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual* / physiology
  • Psychophysics
  • Reference Values
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology