Imaging the inflammatory phenotype in migraine

J Headache Pain. 2022 Jun 1;23(1):60. doi: 10.1186/s10194-022-01430-y.


Several preclinical and clinical lines of evidence suggest a role of neuroinflammation in migraine. Neuroimaging offers the possibility to investigate and localize neuroinflammation in vivo in patients with migraine, and to characterize specific inflammatory constituents, such as vascular permeability, and macrophage or microglia activity. Despite all imaging data accumulated on neuroinflammation across the past three decades, an overview of the imaging evidence of neuroinflammation in migraine is still missing.We conducted a systematic review in the Pubmed and Embase databases to evaluate existing imaging data on inflammation in migraine, and to identify gaps in the literature. We included 20 studies investigating migraine without aura (N = 4), migraine with aura (N = 8), both migraine with and without aura (N = 3), or hemiplegic migraine (N = 5).In migraine without aura, macrophage activation was not evident. In migraine with aura, imaging evidence suggested microglial and parameningeal inflammatory activity. Increased vascular permeability was mostly found in hemiplegic migraine, and was atypical in migraine with and without aura. Based on the weight of existing and emerging data, we show that most studies have concentrated on demonstrating increased vascular permeability as a marker of neuroinflammation, with tools that may not have been optimal. In the future, novel, more sensitive techniques, as well as imaging tracers delineating specific inflammatory pathways may further bridge the gap between preclinical and clinical findings.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy*
  • Hemiplegia
  • Humans
  • Migraine with Aura* / diagnostic imaging
  • Migraine without Aura*
  • Phenotype