Background: Migraine is generally considered a functional brain disorder lacking structural abnormalities. Recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies, however, suggested that migraine may be associated with subtle brain lesions.
Objective: We evaluated the presence of global or focal gray or white matter alterations in migraine patients using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), a fully automated method of analyzing changes in brain structure. VBM data also were used to evaluate possible differences between episodic and chronic migraine.
Methods: Twenty-seven migraine right-handed patients and 27 healthy controls were selected for the study. Sixteen patients fulfilled the International Headache Society criteria for episodic migraine and 11 for chronic migraine. MRI scans were analyzed with MATLAB 6.5 and SPM2 software, using VBM method.
Results: In comparison with controls, migraineurs presented a significant focal gray matter reduction in the Right Superior Temporal Gyrus, Right Inferior Frontal Gyrus, and Left Precentral Gyrus. Chronic migraine patients, compared to episodic, showed a focal gray matter decrease in the bilateral Anterior Cingulate Cortex, Left Amygdala, Left Parietal Operculum, Left Middle and Inferior Frontal Gyrus, Right Inferior Frontal Gyrus, and bilateral Insula. Considering all the migraine patients, a significant correlation between gray matter reduction in anterior cingulate cortex and frequency of migraine attacks was found.
Conclusions: Our study shows that migraine is associated with a significant gray matter reduction in several of the cortical areas involved in pain circuitry. In addition, we found a significant correlation between frequency of migraine attacks and signal alteration in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Our data provide new insight into migraine pathophysiology and support the concept that migraine may be a progressive disorder.