An amplified ciliospinal reflex response has been documented in patients with cluster headache, lacking a Horner like syndrome. The mechanism is unknown, Tentatively, it may be due to an increased release of monoamines from post-ganglionic sympathetic nerve endings or an increased density of postsynaptic adrenergic receptors in the dilatator muscle of the iris.
The instillation of a 1% phenylephrine solution into the conjunctival sac induces mydriasis by stimulating postsynaptic adrenergic receptors in the dilatator muscle of the iris, while the instillation of a 2% tyramine solution causes mydriasis by releasing noradrenaline from the presynaptic sympathetic nerve terminals in the iris.
According to these premises, a positive correlation shouId be expected between the ciliospinal reflex response and the pupillary response to tyramine, if the enhanced ciliospinal so-flex response was due to an increased presynaptic release of monoamines. No such correlation was found. Nor was there any positive correlation between the ciliospinal reflex response and the pupillary response to phenylephrine, contradicting an increased density of postsynaptic monoaminergic receptors in the dilatator muscle of the iris as the explanation. However, there was a significant positive correlation between the pupillary responses to phenylephrine and tyramine, ruling out any functionally caused “denervation” hypersensitivity in the dilatator muscle of the iris.
It is concluded that the amplified ciliospinal reflex response in cluster headache patients (lacking a Horner-like syndrome) reflects compensatory pathophysiological mechanisms proximal to the third-order sympathetic neuron.