Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is a relatively frequently occurring secondary headache caused by overuse of analgesics and/or acute migraine medications. It is believed that MOH is associated with dependence behaviors and substance addiction, in which the salience network (SN) and the habenula may play an important role. This study aims to investigate the resting-state (RS) functional connectivity between the habenula and the SN in patients with MOH complicating chronic migraine (CM) compared with those with episodic migraine (EM) and healthy controls (HC).
RS-fMRI and 3-dimensional T1-weighted images of 17 patients with MOH + CM, 18 patients with EM and 30 matched healthy HC were obtained. The RS-fMRI data were analyzed using the independent component analysis (ICA) method to investigate the group differences of functional connectivity between the habenula and the SN in three groups. Correlation analysis was performed thereafter with all clinical variables by Pearson correlation.
Increased functional connectivity between bilateral habenula and SN was detected in patients with MOH + CM compared with patients with EM and HC respectively. Correlation analysis showed significant correlation between medication overuse duration and habenula-SN connectivity in MOH + CM patients.
The current study supported MOH to be lying within a spectrum of dependence and addiction disorder. The enhanced functional connectivity of the habenula with SN may correlate to the development or chronification of MOH. Furthermore, the habenula may be an indicator or treatment target for MOH for its integrative role involved in multiple aspects of MOH.

© 2021. The Author(s).