Primary Somatosensory Cortices Contain Altered Patterns of Regional Cerebral Blood Flow in the Interictal Phase of Migraine

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 15;10(9):e0137971. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137971. eCollection 2015.


The regulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF) is a complex integrated process that is critical for supporting healthy brain function. Studies have demonstrated a high incidence of alterations in CBF in patients suffering from migraine with and without aura during different phases of attacks. However, the CBF data collected interictally has failed to show any distinguishing features or clues as to the underlying pathophysiology of the disease. In this study we used the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique-arterial spin labeling (ASL)-to non-invasively and quantitatively measure regional CBF (rCBF) in a case-controlled study of interictal migraine. We examined both the regional and global CBF differences between the groups, and found a significant increase in rCBF in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) of migraine patients. The CBF values in S1 were positively correlated with the headache attack frequency, but were unrelated to the duration of illness or age of the patients. Additionally, 82% of patients reported skin hypersensitivity (cutaneous allodynia) during migraine, suggesting atypical processing of somatosensory stimuli. Our results demonstrate the presence of a disease-specific functional deficit in a known region of the trigemino-cortical pathway, which may be driven by adaptive or maladaptive functional plasticity. These findings may in part explain the altered sensory experiences reported between migraine attacks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult