Can migraine aura be provoked experimentally? A systematic review of potential methods for the provocation of migraine aura

Cephalalgia. 2017 Jan;37(1):74-88. doi: 10.1177/0333102416636097. Epub 2016 Sep 29.


Background The nature of the migraine aura and its role in migraine pathophysiology is incompletely understood. In particular, the mechanisms underlying aura initiation and the causal relation between aura and headache are unknown. The scientific investigation of aura in patients is only possible if aura can be triggered. This paper reviews potential methods for the experimental provocation of migraine aura. Methods We systematically searched PubMed for studies of experimental migraine provocation, including case reports of patients with aura and reports of the occurrence of aura following exposure to any kind of suspected trigger. Results We identified 21 provocation studies, using 13 different prospective provocation methods, and 34 case reports. In the prospective studies, aura were reported following the administration of intravenous and sublingual glyceryl trinitrate, visual stimulation, physical activity, calcitonin gene-related peptide infusion, chocolate ingestion, and the intravenous injection of insulin. In addition, carotid artery puncture has consistently been reported as a trigger of aura. Conclusions No safe and efficient method for aura provocation exists at present, but several approaches could prove useful for this purpose.

Keywords: Migraine; aura; experimental; human model; provocation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Migraine with Aura*
  • Models, Biological*