Neurochemical pathways that converge on thalamic trigeminovascular neurons: potential substrate for modulation of migraine by sleep, food intake, stress and anxiety

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 4;9(8):e103929. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103929. eCollection 2014.


Dynamic thalamic regulation of sensory signals allows the cortex to adjust better to rapidly changing behavioral, physiological and environmental demands. To fulfill this role, thalamic neurons must themselves be subjected to constantly changing modulatory inputs that originate in multiple neurochemical pathways involved in autonomic, affective and cognitive functions. Our overall goal is to define an anatomical framework for conceptualizing how a 'decision' is made on whether a trigeminovascular thalamic neuron fires, for how long, and at what frequency. To begin answering this question, we determine which neuropeptides/neurotransmitters are in a position to modulate thalamic trigeminovascular neurons. Using a combination of in-vivo single-unit recording, juxtacellular labeling with tetramethylrhodamine dextran (TMR) and in-vitro immunohistochemistry, we found that thalamic trigeminovascular neurons were surrounded by high density of axons containing biomarkers of glutamate, GABA, dopamine and serotonin; moderate density of axons containing noradrenaline and histamine; low density of axons containing orexin and melanin concentrating hormone (MCH); but not axons containing CGRP, serotonin 1D receptor, oxytocin or vasopressin. In the context of migraine, the findings suggest that the transmission of headache-related nociceptive signals from the thalamus to the cortex may be modulated by opposing forces (i.e., facilitatory, inhibitory) that are governed by continuous adjustments needed to keep physiological, behavioral, cognitive and emotional homeostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Eating
  • Glutamates / metabolism
  • Histamine / metabolism
  • Hypothalamic Hormones / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Orexins
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Sleep*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology*
  • Trigeminal Nerve / blood supply
  • Trigeminal Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Vasopressins / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Glutamates
  • Hypothalamic Hormones
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Melanins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Orexins
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • Vasopressins
  • Serotonin
  • Oxytocin
  • melanin-concentrating hormone
  • Histamine
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine