Hypothalamic deep-brain stimulation modulates thermal sensitivity and pain thresholds in cluster headache

Tim P. Jürgens, Massimo Leone, Alberto Proietti-Cecchini, Volker Busch, Eliana Mea, Gennaro Bussone, Arne May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Deep-brain stimulation (DBS) of the posterior hypothalamus has been shown to be clinically effective for drug-resistant chronic cluster headache, but the underlying mechanism is still not understood. The hypothalamus as an important centre of homeostasis is connected among others to the trigeminal system via the trigeminohypothalamic tract. We aimed to elucidate whether hypothalamic stimulation affects thermal sensation and pain perception only in the clinically affected region (the first trigeminal branch) or in other regions as well. Thus, we examined three groups: chronic cluster headache patients with unilateral DBS of the posterior hypothalamus (n = 11), chronic cluster headache patients without DBS (n = 15) and healthy controls (n = 29). Perception and pain thresholds for hot and cold stimuli were determined bilaterally in all subjects supraorbitally, at the forearm, and in the lower leg. In DBS patients, thresholds were determined with the stimulator activated and inactivated. Cold pain thresholds at the first trigeminal branch were increased on the stimulated side in the DBS group compared to healthy subjects (p = .015). The DBS group also had higher cold detection thresholds compared to non-implanted cluster headache patients (p <.05). Short-term interruption of stimulation did not induce any changes in DBS patients. Clinically relevant differences were found neither between non-stimulated cluster headache patients and healthy controls nor between the affected and the non-affected sides in the chronic cluster headache patients without DBS. These results support the notion that neurostimulation of the posterior hypothalamus is specific for cluster headache and only affects certain aspects of pain sensation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Cluster headache
  • Deep-brain stimulation
  • Posterior hypothalamus
  • Quantitative sensory testing
  • Thermal threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology


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