Background: Using conventional visual evoked potentials (VEPs), migraine patients were found to be hyperresponsive to visual stimulus. Considering that a significant portion of neuronal activity is lost for analysis in the averaging process of conventional VEPs, in this study we investigated visual evoked responses of migraine patients and healthy volunteers using a different approach: single trial analysis. This method permits to preserve all stimulus-induced neuronal activations, whether they are synchronized or not. In addition, we used MRI voxel-based morphometry to search for cortical regions where gray matter volume correlated with single trial (st) VEP amplitude. Finally, using resting-state functional MRI, we explored the connectivity between these regions. Results: stVEP amplitude was greater in episodic migraine patients than in healthy volunteers. Moreover, in migraine patients it correlated positively with gray matter volume of several brain areas likely involved in visual processing, mostly belonging to the ventral attention network. Finally, resting state functional connectivity corroborated the existence of functional interactions between these areas and helped delineating their directions. Conclusions: st-VEPs appear to be a reliable measure of cerebral responsiveness to visual stimuli. Mean st-VEP amplitude is higher in episodic migraine patients compared to controls. Visual hyper-responsiveness in migraine involves several functionally-interconnected brain regions, suggesting that it is the result of a complex multi-regional process coupled to stimulus driven attention systems rather than a localized alteration.
Keywords: electrophysiology; functional connectivity; migraine; single trial VEP; voxel-based morphometry.