Neurotology of migraine

Headache. Nov-Dec 1997;37(10):615-21. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.1997.3710615.x.


Neurotologic symptoms are common with migraine, yet relatively little is known about the pathophysiology of such symptoms. Motion sensitivity with bouts of motion sickness occurs in about two thirds of patients with migraine. Episodes of vertigo occur in about one fourth of patients and, in some, vertigo is the only symptom (so-called "migraine equivalent"). Phonophobia is the most common auditory symptom, but fluctuating hearing loss and acute permanent hearing loss occur in a small percentage. Migraine can mimic Meniere's disease and so-called "vestibular Meniere's disease" is usually associated with migraine. The recent discovery of a mutation in a brain calcium-channel gene in families with hemiplegic migraine and in families with episodic vertigo and ataxia suggests a possible mechanism for neurotologic symptoms in patients with more common varieties of migraine. A defective calcium channel, primarily expressed in the brain and inner ear, could lead to reversible hair cell depolarization and auditory and vestibular symptoms. This hypothesis is currently being investigated in other families with migraine headaches and neurotologic symptoms. Hopefully, such studies will lead to improved diagnosis and better treatments in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Hearing Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Meniere Disease / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / classification
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / genetics
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Vertigo / drug therapy
  • Vertigo / etiology*


  • Calcium Channels