Impairment of corneal pain perception in cluster headache

Giorgio Sandrini, Enrico Alfonsi, Luigi Ruiz, Giovanni Pavesi, Giuseppe Micieli, Gian Camillo Manzoni, Domenico Mancia, Giuseppe Nappi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite many studies, the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis of pain in cluster headache (CH) still remain obscure. An involvement of substance P (SP) containing neurons of the Gasserian ganglion and/or of the spinal trigeminal nucleus has recently been suggested, e.g., by impairment of inhibitory descending pathways on trigeminal nociceptive neurons. The electrically elicited corneal reflex was studied in 21 CH patients (15 in active phase, 6 in remission). This method allows simultaneous measurements of the trigemino-facial reflex and corneal pain perception. A significant reduction of pain thresholds (more evident on the pain side) was observed in CH during the active phase, while normal values were recorded during the remission phase. Ten out of 15 patients in the active phase showed a significantly reduced corneal pain threshold on the pain side, while tactile sensibility was normal. Moreover, latency, amplitude and duration of the corneal reflex were normal for both painful and painless stimulations during both phases. The threshold of the nociceptive muscular response in the active phase was significantly reduced, suggesting that the excitability of trigeminal nociceptive neurons or of the motor neurons is increased in CH. The results agree with the hypothesis that a reversible impairment of several integrative functions, including the activity of trigeminal pain control system, exists in CH during the active phase.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-304
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991


  • Cluster headache
  • Corneal reflex
  • Pain threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Psychology


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