Migraine is associated with altered processing of sensory stimuli

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2014 Nov;18(11):458. doi: 10.1007/s11916-014-0458-8.


Migraine is associated with derangements in perception of multiple sensory modalities including vision, hearing, smell, and somatosensation. Compared to people without migraine, migraineurs have lower discomfort thresholds in response to special sensory stimuli as well as to mechanical and thermal noxious stimuli. Likewise, the environmental triggers of migraine attacks, such as odors and flashing lights, highlight basal abnormalities in sensory processing and integration. These alterations in sensory processing and perception in migraineurs have been investigated via physiological studies and functional brain imaging studies. Investigations have demonstrated that migraineurs during and between migraine attacks have atypical stimulus-induced activations of brainstem, subcortical, and cortical regions that participate in sensory processing. A lack of normal habituation to repetitive stimuli during the interictal state and a tendency towards development of sensitization likely contribute to migraine-related alterations in sensory processing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Brain Stem / physiopathology
  • Electrical Synapses
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Light / adverse effects
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Nociception
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Odorants
  • Olfactory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold
  • Photophobia
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Visual Cortex / physiopathology*