A deficit of habituation in cortical information processing, including somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs), is the most consistent neurophysiological abnormality in migraine patients between attacks. To explore further the mechanisms underlying this interictal neural dysfunction, we have studied the high-frequency oscillations (HFOs) embedded in SSEPs because they are thought to reflect spike activity in thalamo-cortical cholinergic fibres (early HFOs) and in cortical inhibitory GABAergic interneurons (late HFOs). Untreated migraine patients with (MA) and without (MO) aura were recorded during (n = 13: nine MO, four MA) and between attacks (n = 29: 14 MO, 15 MA) and compared with healthy volunteers. SSEPs were filtered off-line (digital band-pass between 450 and 750 Hz) to extract the two HFO bursts from the broad-band contralateral N20 somatosensory cortical response obtained by median nerve stimulation. In both migraine groups, amplitudes and latencies of conventional broad-band SSEPs recorded interictally from cervical and parietal active electrodes were not significantly different from those found in healthy volunteers. In contrast, maximum peak-to-peak amplitude and area under the rectified curve of the early HFO burst were significantly smaller in both MA and MO patients than in healthy volunteers. There was no significant difference in the later HFO burst between migraineurs and healthy volunteers. During attacks, all electrophysiological measurements in migraineurs were similar to those found in healthy volunteers. Thalamo-cortical activation, as reflected by the early SSEP HFO burst, may thus be reduced in migraine interictally, but normalizes during an attack, whereas intracortical inhibition, as indexed by the late HFO burst, is normal at any time. This supports the hypothesis that the habituation deficit in migraineurs is due to a reduced pre-activation level of sensory cortices and not to increased cortical excitability or reduced intracortical inhibition.
- Cortical excitability
- High-frequency oscillations
- Somatosensory evoked potentials
ASJC Scopus subject areas