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Abstract

The innervation of the cranial vessels by the trigeminal nerve, the trigeminovascular system, has recently been the subject of study in view of its possible role in the mediation of some aspects of migraine. Since stimulation of the trigeminal ganglion in humans leads to facial pain and flushing and associated release of powerful neuropeptide vasodilator substances, their local release into the extracerebral circulation of humans was determined in patients who had either common or classic migraine. Venous blood was sampled from both the external jugular and the cubital fossa ipsilateral to the side of headache. Plasma levels of neuropeptide Y, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, substance P, and calcitonin gene-related peptide were determined using sensitive radioimmunoassays for each peptide, and values for the cubital fossa and external jugular and a control population were compared. A substantial elevation of the calcitonin gene-related peptide level in the external jugular but not the cubital fossa blood was seen in both classic and common migraine. The increase seen in classic migraine was greater than that seen with common migraine. The other peptides measured were unaltered. This finding may have importance in the pathophysiology of migraine.