Hypothalamic activation in spontaneous migraine attacks

Headache. 2007 Nov-Dec;47(10):1418-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.00776.x.


Background: Migraine sufferers experience premonitory symptoms which suggest that primary hypothalamic dysfunction is a likely trigger of the attacks. Neuroendocrine and laboratory data also support this hypothesis. To date, positron emission tomography (PET) scans of migraine sufferers have demonstrated activation of brainstem nuclei, but not of the hypothalamus.

Objective: To record cerebral activations withH2 15OPET during spontaneous migraine without aura attacks.

Methods: We scanned 7 patients with migraine without aura (6 females and 1 male) in each of 3 situations: within 4 hours of headache onset, after headache relief by sumatriptan injection (between the fourth and the sixth hour after headache onset), and during an attack-free period.

Results: During the headache we found not only significant activations in the midbrain and pons, but also in the hypothalamus, all persisting after headache relief by sumatriptan.

Conclusion: Hypothalamic activity, long suspected by clinical and experimental arguments as a possible trigger for migraine, is demonstrated for the first time during spontaneous attacks.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Brain Stem / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Stem / drug effects
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hypothalamus / drug effects
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy
  • Migraine Disorders / pathology*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Sumatriptan / therapeutic use
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Sumatriptan