Structural changes of cerebellum and brainstem in migraine without aura

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Background: Increasing evidence has suggested that the cerebellum is associated with pain and migraine. In addition, the descending pain system of the brainstem is the major site of trigeminal pain processing and modulation and has been discussed as a main player in the pathophysiology of migraine. Cerebellar and brainstem structural changes associated with migraineurs remain to be further investigated. Methods: Voxel-based morphometry (VBM) (50 controls, 50 migraineurs without aura (MWoAs)) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) (46 controls, 46 MWoAs) were used to assess cerebellum and brainstem anatomical alterations associated with MWoAs. We utilized a spatially unbiased infratentorial template toolbox (SUIT) to perform cerebellum and brainstem optimized VBM and DTI analysis. We extracted the average diffusion values from a probabilistic cerebellar white matter atlas to investigate whether MWoAs exhibited microstructure alterations in the cerebellar peduncle tracts. Results: MWoAs showed decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the vermis VI extending to the bilateral lobules V and VI of the cerebellum. We also found higher axial diffusivity (AD), mean diffusivity (MD), and radial diffusivity (RD) in the right inferior cerebellum peduncle tract in MWoAs. MWoAs exhibited both reduced gray matter volume and increased AD, MD and RD in the spinal trigeminal nucleus (SpV). Conclusion: MWoAs exhibited microstructural changes in the cerebellum and the local brainstem. These structural differences might contribute to dysfunction of the transmission and modulation of noxious information, trigeminal nociception, and conduction and integration of multimodal information in MWoAs. These findings further suggest involvement of the cerebellum and the brainstem in the pathology of migraine without aura.




Qin, Z., He, X. W., Zhang, J., Xu, S., Li, G. F., Su, J., … Du, X. (2019). Structural changes of cerebellum and brainstem in migraine without aura. Journal of Headache and Pain, 20(1).

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