Structural brain abnormalities in patients with vestibular migraine


New advances in understanding the pathophysiology of vestibular migraine (VM) have suggested a large overlap between migraine and vestibular pathways. We explored the regional distribution of gray (GM) and white matter (WM) abnormalities in VM patients in comparison to migraine patients with (MWA) and without aura (MWoA) and their correlations with patients’ clinical manifestations. Using a 3.0 Tesla scanner, brain T2-weighted and 3D T1-weighted MRI scans were acquired from 19 VM, 19 MWA, 19 MWoA and 20 age-matched controls. GM and WM volumetric abnormalities were estimated using voxel-based morphometry (SPM12). Compared to controls, migraine patients had decreased GM volume of the left cerebellum and an increased GM volume of the left temporal lobe. VM patients had a selective GM volume increase of frontal and occipital regions compared to controls and the other two groups of migraineurs and no regions with decreased GM volume. Compared to MWoA and MWA, VM had increased GM volume of the left thalamus. Regional GM abnormalities did not correlate with disease duration and attack frequency. No WM volumetric differences were detected between migraine patients and controls. These results show that GM volume abnormalities of nociceptive and multisensory vestibular brain areas occur in VM patients. Overall, our findings suggest that an abnormal brain sensitization might lead to a dismodulation of multimodal sensory integration and processing cortical areas in VM patients.

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Correspondence to Massimo Filippi.

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This study was approved by the Local Ethical Committes on human studies and all subjects provided written informed consent prior to study participation.

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The study was approved by the Local Ethical Committee on human studies and was performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

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Written informed consent was obtained from all participants at inclusion.

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Messina, R., Rocca, M.A., Colombo, B. et al. Structural brain abnormalities in patients with vestibular migraine. J Neurol 264, 295–303 (2017).

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  • Migraine
  • Vestibular migraine
  • Gray matter abnormalities
  • Voxel-based morphometry