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Keywords:

  • trigeminal;
  • headache;
  • migraine;
  • glutamate;
  • pain;
  • allodynia

Research techniques such as electrophysiology, cFos protein expression, and other measurements of neuronal activation provide insights into the pathophysiology of pain processing in migraine, but they do not indicate the specific neurotransmitter systems involved. This paper summarizes data from microdialysis experiments in which changes in the neurochemistry of the trigeminal nucleus caudalis (TNC) were monitored during dural stimulation. Microdialysis allows the measurement of extracellular concentrations of neurotransmitters in a small area of the brain, in vivo, by means of a probe equipped with a semipermeable membrane. Microdialysis enables direct measurement of changes in extracellular concentrations of neurotransmitters in the intact animal over time in response to dural inflammation. Following the activation of the dural nociceptors, changes in the extracellular amino acid neurotransmitters in the deep lamina of the TNC were tracked. A 5-minute application of inflammatory soup when compared with saline to the dura of rats induced a transient decrease in extracellular glutamate in the TNC at approximately 30 minutes postapplication. This short-lived decrease was followed by a continuous increase in extracellular glutamate to a level of approximately 3 times the baseline value at 3 hours after application of the inflammatory soup. The time course of this increase in extracellular glutamate correlated with changes in sensory thresholds on the face of the rat from electrophysiological recordings of secondary sensory neurons in the TNC. No significant differences between the inflammatory soup and saline conditions were observed for extracellular concentrations of aspartate (an excitatory amino acid) or the inhibitory neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid or glutamine. Results of these experiments support an integral role for glutamate in central sensitization of neurons in the TNC, and suggest an important contribution of glutamate to allodynia and hyperalgia in this animal model of migraine.