, Volume 238, Issue 1 Supplement, pp S18-S22

Neuroeffector functions of sensory fibres: implications for headache mechanisms and drug actions

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Summary

The results of recent investigations designed to elucidate the neuroeffector functions of sensory fibres, the cause of migraine headache and the mechanism of action of antimigraine drugs are reviewed and discussed. Neurogenic inflammation (vasodilatation and neurogenic plasma extravasation) is one explanation for the development of headaches and the blood flow changes which occur during migraine headache. Numerous studies have recently been carried out on rats and guinea-pigs into the effects of antimigraine agents, including ergot alkaloids, sumatriptan and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), on neurogenic plasma protein extravasation in the dura mater induced by electrical stimulation of trigeminal ganglia or systemic administration of capsaicin. It is known that the dura mater is able to produce headaches in man. Ergot alkaloids have been shown to block neurogenic inflammation via a C-fibre dependent neuronal mechanism. Sumatriptan appears to act fairly similarly although, whereas the ergot alkaloids are non-selective for either 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin) receptors or 5-HT1, sumatriptan is selective for 5-HT1 receptors. The antimigraine action of NSAIDs may be via either an effect on blood vessels or an effect on the nerve fibre. The antimigraine effects of ergot alkaloids, sumatriptan and NSAIDs are discussed in the light of the common vasoconstrictor actions of these agents and knowledge that vasodilatation is apparently not responsible for migraine headache pain in most cases.