People with Migraines Show Thickening Areas of the Brain Cortex, Especially Where Pain and Non-pain Sensations are Processed from the Body

Researchers examined morphologic changes in the somatosensory cortex (SSC) of patients with migraine headaches. Cortical thickness of the SSC of patients with migraine was measured and compared with age- and sex-matched healthy subjects. The study included 24 patients with migraine, subdivided into 12 patients who had migraine with aura, 12 patients who had migraine without aura, and 12 controls. Group and individual analyses were performed in the SSC and shown as average maps of significant changes in cortical thickness. RESULTS: People with history of migraines had on average a thicker somatosensory cortex than the control group. The most significant thickness changes were noticed in the caudal SSC, where the trigeminal area, including head and face, is somatotopically represented.

CONCLUSIONS: The study indicates the presence of interictal structural changes in the somatosensory cortex (SSC) of people with migraines (migraineurs). The SSC plays a crucial role in the noxious and nonnoxious somatosensory processing. Thickening in the SSC is in line with diffusional abnormalities observed in the subcortical trigeminal somatosensory pathway of the same migraine cohort in a previous study. Repetitive migraine attacks may lead to, or be the result of, neuroplastic changes in cortical and subcortical structures of the trigeminal somatosensory system.

DaSilva AF, Granziera C, Snyder J, Hadjikhani N. Thickening in the somatosensory cortex of patients with migraine. Neurology. 2007 Nov 20;69(21):1990-5.