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Binocular rivalry in migraine


Dr Frances Wilkinson, Centre for Vision Research, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M3J 1P3. Tel. + 1 416-736-2100, fax + 1 416-736-5857, e-mail


Cortical hyperexcitability in migraine could arise from abnormally weak inhibition or from strengthened intracortical excitatory mechanisms. The present study employed binocular rivalry to differentiate between these possibilities. Rivalry between static oriented grating patterns was examined in migraine with aura (MA), migraine without aura (MoA) and headache-free control participants. A non-significant trend toward elevated mean dominance intervals (monocular percepts, in seconds) was seen in both migraine groups at all contrasts. Second, significant interocular differences in rivalry dominance durations were seen in the MoA group compared with controls; this difference also approached significance in the MA group. Finally, both MA and MoA exhibited significantly greater visual discomfort than the control group in the presence of both static stripes and flickering visual stimuli. The rivalry results provide no support for weakened intracortical inhibition in migraine. Optical or neural precortical differences in the eyes' input strengths paired with enhanced recurrent cortical excitation can explain these findings.