Evoked potentials and transcranial magnetic stimulation in migraine: Published data and viewpoint on their pathophysiologic significance

Jean Schoenen, Anna Ambrosini, Peter S. Sándor, Alain Maertens de Noordhout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Migraine is a disorder in which central nervous sytem dysfunction might play a pivotal role. Electroneurophysiology seems thus particularly suited to study its pathophysiology. We have extensively reviewed evoked potential and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies performed in migraineurs in order to identify their pathophysiologic significance. Publications available to us were completed by a Medline search. Retrieved and personal data were compared with respect to methodology and interpreted according to present knowledge on cortical information processing. Results are in part contradictory which appears to be method-, patient- and disease- related. Nonetheless, both evoked potential and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies demonstrate that the cerebral cortex, and possibly subcortical structures, are dysfunctioning interictally in both migraine with and without aura. These electrophysiologic abnormalities tend to normalise just before and during an attack and some of them seem to have a clear familial and predisposing character. Besides the studies of magnetophosphenes which have yielded contrasting results, chiefly because the method is not sufficiently reliable, most recent electrophysiologic investigations of cortical activities in migraine favour deficient habituation and decreased preactivation cortical excitability as the predominant interictal dysfunctions. We propose that the former is a consequence of the latter and that it could favour both interictal cognitive disturbances as well as a cerebral metabolic disequilibrium that may play a role in migraine pathogenesis. To summarize, electrophysiologic studies demonstrate in migraine between attacks a cortical, and possibly subcortical, dysfunction of which the hallmark is deficient habituation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-972
Number of pages18
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2003



  • Evoked potentials
  • Migraine
  • Pathophysiology
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)

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