Dopaminergic symptoms in migraine

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Migraine pain is often preceded, accompanied and followed by dopaminergic symptoms (premonitory yawning and somnolence, accompanying nausea and vomiting, postdromal somnolence, euphoria and polyuria). After reviewing evidence from pharmacological, biochemical, genetic and animal experimental studies on the relationship between dopamine and migraine, and matching these data with patients' clinical features, we postulate that migraine attacks could be characterized by an ictal dopamine release in a subject with dopamine receptor hypersensitivity due to a chronic dopaminergic deficit synergistic to serotoninergic impairment. Our review suggests that when the attack begins, a low dopamine plasma concentration stimulates hypersensitive central presynaptic dopamine receptors thus causing prodromal symptoms such as yawning and somnolence. Increasing dopamine levels, though still insufficient to stop trigeminovascular activation, stimulate postsynaptic dopamine receptors thus inducing nausea, vomiting and hypotension. Finally, dopamine levels slowly return to baseline, giving rise to somnolence and fatigue, but, in some cases, continue to rise triggering postdromal symptoms such as euphoria and polyuria.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNeurological Sciences
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Biochemistry
  • Dopamine
  • Migraine
  • Pathophysiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Dermatology
  • Medicine(all)


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