Resting cranial and upper cervical muscle activity is increased in patients with migraine

Clin Neurophysiol. 2018 Sep;129(9):1913-1919. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2018.06.017. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


Objective: To compare comprehensive measures of scalp-recorded muscle activity in migraineurs and controls.

Method: We used whole-of-head high-density scalp electrical recordings, independent component analysis (ICA) and spectral slope of the derived components, to define muscle (electromyogram-containing) components. After projecting muscle components back to scalp, we quantified scalp spectral power in the frequency range, 52-98 Hz, reflecting muscle activation. We compared healthy subjects (n = 65) and migraineurs during a non-headache period (n = 26). We also examined effects due to migraine severity, gender, scalp-region and task (eyes-closed and eyes-open). We could not examine the effect of pre-ictal versus inter-ictal versus post-ictal as this information was not available in the pre-existing dataset.

Results: There was more power due to muscle activity (mean ± SEM) in migraineurs than controls (respectively, -13.61 ± 0.44 dB versus -14.73 ± 0.24 dB, p = 0.028). Linear regression showed no relationship between headache frequency and muscle activity in any combination of region and task. There was more power during eyes-open than eyes-closed (respectively, -13.42 ± 0.34 dB versus -14.92 ± 0.34 dB, p = 0.002).

Conclusions: There is an increase in cranial and upper cervical muscle activity in non-ictal migraineurs versus controls. This raises questions of the role of muscle in migraine, and the possible differentiation of non-ictal phases.

Significance: This provides preliminary evidence to date of possible cranial muscle involvement in migraine.

Keywords: Cranial muscle activity; Independent component analysis; Migraine; Quantification; Scalp electrical recordings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neck Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Scalp / physiopathology