Migraine is a primary headache with high prevalence among the general population, characterized by functional hypersensitivity to both exogenous and endogenous stimuli particularly affecting the nociceptive system. The hyperresponsivity of cortical neurons could be due to a disequilibrium in the excitatory/inhibitory signaling. This study aimed to investigate the anatomo-functional pathway from the retina to the primary visual cortex using visual evoked potentials (VEP). Contrast gain protocol was used in 15 patients diagnosed with migraine without aura (at baseline and after 3 months of topiramate therapy) and 13 controls. A saturation (S) index was assessed to monitor the response of VEP’s amplitude to contrast gain. Non-linear nor monotone growth of VEP (S < 0.95) was defined as supersaturation. A greater percentage of migraine patients (53%) relative to controls (7%) showed this characteristic. A strong inverse correlation was found between the S index and the number of days separating the registration of VEP from the next migraine attack. Moreover, allodynia measured through the Allodynia Symptoms Check-list (ASC-12) correlates with the S index both at baseline and after 3 months of topiramate treatment. Other clinical characteristics were not related to supersaturation. Topiramate therapy, although effective, did not influence electrophysiological parameters suggesting a non-intracortical nor retinal origin of the supersaturation (with possible involvement of relay cells from the lateral geniculate nucleus). In conclusion, the elaboration of visual stimuli and visual cortex activity is different in migraine patients compared to controls. More data are necessary to confirm the potential use of the S index as a biomarker for the migraine cycle (association with the pain-phase) and cortical sensitization (allodynia).
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Ciro De Luca