Cerebral gray matter volume in patients with chronic migraine: correlations with clinical features

Gianluca Coppola, Barbara Petolicchio, Antonio Di Renzo, Emanuele Tinelli, Cherubino Di Lorenzo, Vincenzo Parisi, Mariano Serrao, Valentina Calistri, Stefano Tardioli, Gaia Cartocci, Anna Ambrosini, Francesca Caramia, Vittorio Di Piero, Francesco Pierelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: To date, few MRI studies have been performed in patients affected by chronic migraine (CM), especially in those without medication overuse. Here, we performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) voxel-based morphometry (VBM) analyses to investigate the gray matter (GM) volume of the whole brain in patients affected by CM. Our aim was to investigate whether fluctuations in the GM volumes were related to the clinical features of CM. Methods: Twenty untreated patients with CM without a past medical history of medication overuse underwent 3-Tesla MRI scans and were compared to a group of 20 healthy controls (HCs). We used SPM12 and the CAT12 toolbox to process the MRI data and to perform VBM analyses of the structural T1-weighted MRI scans. The GM volume of patients was compared to that of HCs with various corrected and uncorrected thresholds. To check for possible correlations, patients’ clinical features and GM maps were regressed. Results: Initially, we did not find significant differences in the GM volume between patients with CM and HCs (p < 0.05 corrected for multiple comparisons). However, using more-liberal uncorrected statistical thresholds, we noted that compared to HCs, patients with CM exhibited clusters of regions with lower GM volumes including the cerebellum, left middle temporal gyrus, left temporal pole/amygdala/hippocampus/pallidum/orbitofrontal cortex, and left occipital areas (Brodmann areas 17/18). The GM volume of the cerebellar hemispheres was negatively correlated with the disease duration and positively correlated with the number of tablets taken per month. Conclusion: No gross morphometric changes were observed in patients with CM when compared with HCs. However, using more-liberal uncorrected statistical thresholds, we observed that CM is associated with subtle GM volume changes in several brain areas known to be involved in nociception/antinociception, multisensory integration, and analgesic dependence. We speculate that these slight morphometric impairments could lead, at least in a subgroup of patients, to the development and continuation of maladaptive acute medication usage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number115
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Acute medication
  • Cerebellum
  • Gray matter
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Temporal pole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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