Platelet Levels of Dopamine Are Increased in Migraine and Cluster Headache


  • Giovanni D'Andrea MD,

  • Franco Granella MD,

  • Francesco Perini MD,

  • Angelo Farruggio MD,

  • Massimo Leone MD,

  • Gennaro Bussone MD

  • From the Headache Centre, Villa Margherita Hospital, Arcugnano (VI), Italy (Dr. D'Andrea); Department of Neurosciences, University of Parma, Parma, Italy (Dr. Granella); Department of Neurology, Vicenza Hospital, Vicenza, Italy (Dr. Perini); Department of Pathology, Este-Monselice Hospital, Este (PD), Italy (Dr. Farruggio); Neurological Institute “C. Besta,” Milan, Italy (Drs. Leone and Bussone).

Address all correspondence to Dr. Franco Granella, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Sezione di Neurologia, Università di Parma, Via Gramsci, 14, 43100 Parma, Italy.


Objective.—To measure plasma and platelet levels of dopamine in patients with migraine with aura, migraine without aura, and cluster headache.

Background.—Clinical, genetic, and pharmacological evidences suggest that an abnormality of dopaminergic system plays a role in migraine pathogenesis. Direct evidence of an abnormal metabolism of dopamine in migraine, however, is lacking.

Methods.—Plasma and platelet levels of dopamine were measured in patients with migraine with aura or migraine without aura during headache-free periods and in patients with cluster headache during the remission and active periods, as compared with healthy control subjects, using a multichannel electrochemical high-performance liquid chromatography system.

Results.—Plasma levels of dopamine were not detectable with our methodology. Platelet levels of dopamine were higher in both types of migraine (migraine without aura = .20 ± .17 ng/108 platelets; migraine with aura = .16 ± .19 ng/108 platelets) than in control subjects (.10 ± .11 ng/108 platelets), although in migraine with aura patients the difference was not significant. Patients with cluster headache showed the highest levels of platelet dopamine (.34 ± .36 ng/108 platelets).

Conclusions.—Our results support the hypothesis that the dopaminergic system is impaired in migraine and cluster headache and suggest that high platelet levels of dopamine may represent an abnormal biochemical phenotypic trait of these primary headaches.