Neurophysiologic Correlates of Headache Pain in Subjects With Major Depressive Disorder

Clin EEG Neurosci. 2017 May;48(3):159-167. doi: 10.1177/1550059416632411. Epub 2016 Mar 21.


Background: Headache pain is often comorbid with major depressive disorder (MDD) and is associated with greater symptom burden, disability, and suicidality. The biological correlates of headache pain in MDD, however, remain obscure. The purpose of this study was to examine the association between brain oscillatory activity and headache pain in MDD subjects.

Methods: A total of 64 subjects with MDD who were free of psychoactive medications were evaluated for severity of headache pain in the past week. Brain function was assessed using resting-state quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG). We derived cordance in the theta (4-8 Hz) and alpha (8-12 Hz) frequency bands at each electrode, and examined correlations with headache pain in regions of interest while controlling for depression severity. Frontal and posterior asymmetry in alpha power was calculated in regions of interest.

Results: Headache pain severity was associated with depression severity ( r = 0.447, P < .001). In bilateral frontal and right posterior regions, alpha cordance was significantly associated with headache intensity, including when controlling for depression severity. The direction of the correlation was positive anteriorly and negative posteriorly. Frontal left dominant alpha asymmetry correlated with severity of headache but not depression symptoms.

Conclusion: Alterations in brain oscillations identified by alpha cordance and alpha asymmetry may be associated with the pathophysiology of headache pain in depression. These findings should be prospectively confirmed.

Keywords: alpha asymmetry; cordance; depression; electroencephalography; headache.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography* / methods
  • Female
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Headache / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurophysiology / methods
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult