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Keywords:

  • trigeminal pain;
  • somatosensory perception;
  • vascular hypothesis

Objective and Background.— The characteristic throbbing quality of migraine pain is often attributed to the periodic activation of trigeminovascular sensory afferents triggered by the distension of cranial arteries during systole, but direct evidence for this model has been elusive.

Design and Methods.— Patients with throbbing migrainous pain were asked to signal in real time the occurrences of their subjective experience of pulsating pain, during which time their arterial pulse was independently monitored.

Results.— Overall, the throbbing pain rate (61.7 ± 5.5 SEM) was substantially slower than the arterial pulse rate (80 ± 2.6 SEM, P < .02), and among the few individuals in whom the 2 rates were the same or nearly the same, the occurrences of throbbing and arterial pulsations fell in and out of phase with each other.

Conclusions.— The lack of a simple correspondence between the subjective experience of throbbing pain and the arterial pulse would at the very least require extensive refinement of the prevailing view that the subjective experience of throbbing migraine pain is directly related to the distension of cranial arteries and activation of associated sensory afferents.