Concurrent brain structural and functional alterations in patients with migraine without aura: an fMRI study

J Headache Pain. 2020 Dec 7;21(1):141. doi: 10.1186/s10194-020-01203-5.


Objectives: To explore the possible concurrent brain functional and structural alterations in patients with migraine without aura (MwoA) patients compared to healthy subjects (HS).

Methods: Seventy-two MwoA patients and forty-six HS were recruited. 3D-T1 and resting state fMRI data were collected during the interictal period for MwoA and HS. Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) for structure analysis and regional homogeneity (Reho) for fMRI analysis were applied. The VBM and Reho maps were overlapped to determine a possible brain region with concurrent functional and structural alteration in MwoA patients. Further analysis of resting state functional connectivity (FC) alteration was applied with this brain region as the seed.

Results: Compared with HS, MwoA patients showed decreased volume in the bilateral superior and inferior colliculus, periaqueductal gray matter (PAG), locus ceruleus, median raphe nuclei (MRN) and dorsal pons medulla junction. MwoA patients showed decreased Reho values in the middle occipital gyrus and inferior occipital gyrus, and increased Reho values in the MRN. Only a region in the MRN showed both structural and functional alteration in MwoA patients. Pearson correlation analysis showed that there was no association between volume or Reho values of the MRN and headache frequency, headache intensity, disease duration, self-rating anxiety scale or self-rating depression scale in MwoA patients. Resting state functional connectivity (FC) with the MRN as the seed showed that MwoA patients had increased FC between the MRN and PAG.

Conclusions: MRN are involved in the pathophysiology of migraine during the interictal period. This study may help to better understand the migraine symptoms.

Trial registration: NCT01152632 . Registered 27 June 2010.

Keywords: Functional connectivity (FC); Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Median raphe nuclei (MRN); Migraine; Regional homogeneity (Reho); Voxel-based Morphometry (VBM).

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Mapping
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Migraine without Aura* / diagnostic imaging
  • Periaqueductal Gray
  • Raphe Nuclei

Associated data