The Cerebellum and Migraine


  • Maurice Vincent MD, PhD,

  • Nouchine Hadjikhani MD

  • From the Hospital Universitário Clementino Fraga Filho, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Dr. Vincent); Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA (Dr. Hadjikhani); and Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard-MIT, Cambridge, MA (Dr. Hadjikhani).

Address all correspondence to Dr. Maurice Vincent, Avenida das Américas, 1155/504, CEP 22631-000 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Clinical and pathophysiological evidences connect migraine and the cerebellum. Literature on documented cerebellar abnormalities in migraine, however, is relatively sparse. Cerebellar involvement may be observed in 4 types of migraines: in the widespread migraine with aura (MWA) and migraine without aura (MWoA) forms; in particular subtypes of migraine such as basilar-type migraine (BTM); and in the genetically driven autosomal dominant familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) forms. Cerebellar dysfunction in migraineurs varies largely in severity, and may be subclinical. Purkinje cells express calcium channels that are related to the pathophysiology of both inherited forms of migraine and primary ataxias, mostly spinal cerebellar ataxia type 6 (SCA-6) and episodic ataxia type 2 (EA-2). Genetically driven ion channels dysfunction leads to hyperexcitability in the brain and cerebellum, possibly facilitating spreading depression waves in both locations. This review focuses on the cerebellar involvement in migraine, the relevant ataxias and their association with this primary headache, and discusses some of the pathophysiological processes putatively underlying these diseases.