Hypothalamic and basal ganglia projections to the posterior thalamus: possible role in modulation of migraine headache and photophobia

Neuroscience. 2013 Sep 17;248:359-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2013.06.014. Epub 2013 Jun 25.


Migraine attacks are typically described as unilateral, throbbing pain that is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and exaggerated sensitivities to light, noise and smell. The headache phase of a migraine attack is mediated by activation of the trigeminovascular pathway; a nociceptive pathway that originates in the meninges and carries pain signals through meningeal nociceptors to the spinal trigeminal nucleus and from there to the cortex through relay neurons in the thalamus. Recent studies in our lab have identified a population of trigeminovascular neurons in the posterior (Po) and lateral posterior (LP) thalamic nuclei that may be involved in the perception of whole-body allodynia (abnormal skin sensitivity) and photophobia (abnormal sensitivity to light) during migraine. The purpose of the current study was to identify sub-cortical areas that are in position to directly regulate the activity of these thalamic trigeminovascular neurons. Such process begins with anatomical mapping of neuronal projections to the posterior thalamus of the rat by performing discrete injections of the retrograde tracer Fluorogold into the Po/LP region. Such injections yielded retrogradely labeled neurons in the nucleus of the diagonal band of Broca, the dopaminergic cells group A11/A13, the ventromedial and ventral tuberomammillary nuclei of the hypothalamus. We also found that some of these neurons contain acetylcholine, dopamine, cholecystokinin and histamine, respectively. Accordingly, we speculate that these forebrain/hypothalamic projections to Po and LP may play a role in those migraine attacks triggered by disrupted sleep, skipping meals and emotional reactions.

Keywords: food intake; migraine triggers; neurotransmitters; premonitory symptoms; sleep; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / cytology*
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Hypothalamus / cytology*
  • Hypothalamus / pathology
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / pathology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / pathology*
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Pain / pathology
  • Photophobia / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stilbamidines / chemistry
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Thalamus / pathology


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Stilbamidines