A systematic review and meta-analysis of voxel-based morphometric studies of migraine

J Neurol. 2023 Jan;270(1):152-170. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11363-w. Epub 2022 Sep 13.


Objectives: To comprehensively summarize and meta-analyze the concurrence across voxel-based morphometric (VBM) neuroimaging studies of migraine.

Methods: Neuroimaging studies published from origin to August 1, 2021 were searched in six databases including PubMed, Web of Science, Excerpta Medica Database (EMBASE), China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang Database, and Chongqing VIP. Study selection, quality assessment, and data extraction were conducted by two independent researchers. Anisotropic effect size-signed differential mapping (AES-SDM) and activation likelihood estimation (ALE) were used to perform the meta-analysis of available studies reporting whole-brain gray matter (GM) structural data in migraine patients. Clinical variables correlation analysis and migraine subgroup analysis were also conducted.

Results: 40 articles were included after the strict screening, containing 1616 migraine patients and 1681 matched healthy subjects (HS) in total. Using the method of AES-SDM, migraine patients showed GM increase in the bilateral amygdala, the bilateral parahippocampus, the bilateral temporal poles, the bilateral superior temporal gyri, the left hippocampus, the right superior frontal gyrus, and the left middle temporal gyrus, as well as GM decrease in the left insula, the bilateral cerebellum (hemispheric lobule IX), the right dorsal medulla, the bilateral rolandic operculum, the right middle frontal gyrus, and the right inferior parietal gyrus. Using the method of ALE, migraine patients showed GM increase in the left parahippocampus and GM decrease in the left insula. The results of correlation analysis showed that many of these brain regions were associated with migraine headache frequency and migraine disease duration. Migraine patients in different subtypes (such as migraine without aura (MwoA), migraine with aura (MwA), episodic migraine (EM), chronic migraine (CM), vestibular migraine (VM), etc.), and in different periods (in the ictal and interictal periods) presented not entirely consistent GM alterations.

Conclusion: Migraine patients have GM alterations in multiple brain regions associated with sensation, affection, cognition, and descending modulation aspects of pain. These changes might be a consequence of repeated migraine attacks. Further studies are required to determine how these GM changes can be used to diagnose, monitor disease progression, or exploit potential therapeutic interventions for migraine patients.

Keywords: Gray matter; Magnetic resonance imaging; Meta-analysis; Migraine; Voxel-based morphometry.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Migraine without Aura*
  • Prefrontal Cortex