Dynamic brainstem and somatosensory cortical excitability during migraine cycles

Fu Jung Hsiao, Wei Ta Chen*, Li Ling Hope Pan, Hung Yu Liu, Yen Feng Wang, Shih Pin Chen, Kuan Lin Lai, Gianluca Coppola, Shuu Jiun Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Abstract: Background: Migraine has complex pathophysiological characteristics and episodic attacks. To decipher the cyclic neurophysiological features of migraine attacks, in this study, we compared neuronal excitability in the brainstem and primary somatosensory (S1) region between migraine phases for 30 consecutive days in two patients with episodic migraine. Methods: Both patients underwent EEG recording of event-related potentials with the somatosensory and paired-pulse paradigms for 30 consecutive days. The migraine cycle was divided into the following phases: 24–48 h before headache onset (Pre2), within 24 h before headache onset (Pre1), during the migraine attack (Ictal), within 24 h after headache offset (Post1), and the interval of ˃48 h between the last and next headache phase (Interictal). The normalised current intensity in the brainstem and S1 and gating ratio in the S1 were recorded and examined. Results: Six migraine cycles (three for each patient) were analysed. In both patients, the somatosensory excitability in the brainstem (peaking at 12–14 ms after stimulation) and S1 (peaking at 18–19 ms after stimulation) peaked in the Pre1 phase. The S1 inhibitory capability was higher in the Ictal phase than in the Pre1 phase. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that migraine is a cyclic excitatory disorder and that the neural substrates involved include the somatosensory system, starting in the brainstem and spanning subsequently to the S1 before the migraine occurs. Further investigations with larger sample sizes are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Brainstem
  • Excitability
  • Inhibition
  • Migraine cycle
  • Primary somatosensory cortex (S1)


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