Enhanced interictal responsiveness of the migraineous visual cortex to incongruent bar stimulation: a functional MRI visual activation study


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Since visual aura is usually described as expanding zigzag lines, neurones involved with the perception of line orientation may initiate this phenomenon. A visual incongruent line stimulation protocol was developed to obtain functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) interictally in 5 female migraine patients with typical fortification spectra and in 5 normal matched controls. Activation in the visual cortex was present contralateral to the side of stimulation in 4 of 5 patients, notably in the extrastriate visual cortex. In 4 of 5 controls activation was observed in the medial and anterior orbitofrontal cortex. In one of them additional activation at the right nucleus accumbens/ventral striatum and right ventral pallidum was present. In the remaining control subject activation was present in the left primary visual cortex. The enhanced interictal reactivity of the visual cortex in migraineurs supports the hypothesis of abnormal cortical excitability as an important pathophysiological mechanism in migraine aura, though the role of specific regions of the visual cortex remains to be explored.