Background: Previous studies have defined low-frequency, spatially consistent intrinsic connectivity networks (ICN) in resting functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data which reflect functional interactions among distinct brain areas. We sought to explore whether and how repeated migraine attacks influence intrinsic brain connectivity, as well as how activity in these networks correlates with clinical indicators of migraine.
Methods/principal findings: Resting-state fMRI data in twenty-three patients with migraines without aura (MwoA) and 23 age- and gender-matched healthy controls (HC) were analyzed using independent component analysis (ICA), in combination with a "dual-regression" technique to identify the group differences of three important pain-related networks [default mode network (DMN), bilateral central executive network (CEN), salience network (SN)] between the MwoA patients and HC. Compared with the HC, MwoA patients showed aberrant intrinsic connectivity within the bilateral CEN and SN, and greater connectivity between both the DMN and right CEN (rCEN) and the insula cortex - a critical region involving in pain processing. Furthermore, greater connectivity between both the DMN and rCEN and the insula correlated with duration of migraine.
Conclusions: Our findings may provide new insights into the characterization of migraine as a condition affecting brain activity in intrinsic connectivity networks. Moreover, the abnormalities may be the consequence of a persistent central neural system dysfunction, reflecting cumulative brain insults due to frequent ongoing migraine attacks.