Migraine is a common disabling condition likely to be associated with dysfunction of brain pathways involved in pain and other sensory modalities. A cardinal, indeed signature, feature of the disorder that led to its name is that the pain may be lateralized. H(2)15O-labelled PET was used to study 24 migraineurs and eight healthy controls. The migraineurs were divided into three groups according to the site of their headache: right, left or bilateral. In each group, a migraine was induced using a glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) infusion. The subjects were scanned at predefined points: pre-infusion, during GTN, during migraine and post-migraine. SPM99 software was used to analyse the data. Significant brainstem activation was seen in the dorsal lateral pons (P < 0.05 after small volume correction) during the migraine state versus the pain-free state when comparing migraineurs with controls. When each group was analysed separately, to investigate laterality, it was found that the dorsal pontine activation was ipsilateral in the right-sided and left-sided groups and bilateral in the bilateral headache group with a left-sided preponderance. Consistent with previous work, the activation persisted after pain was controlled by sumatriptan. These results suggest that lateralization of pain in migraine is due to lateralized brain dysfunction.
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