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Abstract

We performed transcranial magnetic stimulations of the motor and visual cortices in healthy controls (n = 27) and in patients suffering from migraine without (n = 33) or with (n = 25) aura between attacks. By using a 13-cm circular coil placed over the vertex and recordings of the first dorsal interosseus muscle, we measured thresholds (at rest and during contraction), amplitudes of motor evoked potentials and cortical silent periods. Paired stimulations with short (1–20 msec) interstimulus intervals were performed to assess intracortical inhibition. The visual cortex was stimulated with the same coil placed over the occipital scalp (7 cm above the inion) and the prevalence and threshold of phosphene production was determined. In patients with migraine with aura, motor thresholds during isometric contraction were significantly higher, whereas the prevalence of stimulation-induced phosphene production was lower compared with healthy controls. These changes were not correlated with attack frequency or disease duration. No differences were found between subject groups in thresholds at rest, motor evoked potential amplitudes, cortical silent periods, or response curves after paired stimuli. These results are in favor of cortical hypoexcitability rather than hyperexcitability in patients with migraine with aura between attacks.