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Motion sickness and migraine: optokinetic stimulation increases scalp tenderness, pain sensitivity in the fingers and photophobia


Peter Drummond, School of Psychology, Murdoch University, 6150 Western Australia. Tel. +61 8 93602415, fax +61 8 93606492, e-mail


The aim of this study was to determine whether scalp tenderness and photophobia, two well-recognized symptoms of migraine, develop during the motion sickness induced by optokinetic stimulation. To investigate whether motion sickness has a general influence on pain perception, pain was also assessed in the fingertips. After optokinetic stimulation, nausea increased more and headache persisted longer in 21 migraine sufferers than in 15 non-headache controls. Scalp tenderness increased during optokinetic stimulation in nauseated subjects, and pain in the fingertips increased more and photophobia persisted longer in migraine sufferers than controls. These findings suggest that the disturbance responsible for nausea also sensitizes trigeminal nociceptive neurones or releases inhibitory controls on their discharge. A low nausea threshold and a propensity for sensitization to develop rapidly in nociceptive pathways may increase susceptibility to migraine.