A dysbalance of the cerebrovascular response during functional activation of the brain has been postulated as a factor in the pathophysiology of migraine. To determine the dynamic pattern of the cerebrovascular response in migraineurs compared with a control group, changes of the cerebral perfusion during cerebral activation were studied with high temporal resolution by functional transcranial Doppler sonography (fTCD). The cerebral blood flow velocity (CBFV) in the right posterior cerebral artery (PCA) and the left middle cerebral artery (MCA) was measured simultaneously during visual stimulation in 19 interictal migraineurs and in 19 age- and sex-matched control subjects. Data were analysed with a previously validated technique based on automated stimulus-related averaging of the CBFV. The MCA migraineurs exhibited a steady increase of CBFV during the stimulation, while normal subjects showed a habituation of the CBFV response. The lack of habituation in migraineurs was significantly (P < or = 0.05) more pronounced across patients with a high attack frequency (> or = 4 per month) compared with migraineurs with a low attack frequency (< 4 per month). In the PCA, compared with normal subjects, migraineurs showed significantly (P < or = 0.05) stronger CBFV changes at the beginning and after the end of stimulation, with a slower decline to baseline. Data are in accordance with electrophysiological findings in migraineurs. It is assumed that a lack of habituation of the cerebrovascular response in migraineurs might contribute to a disturbance of the metabolic homeostasis of the brain that might induce migraine attacks.