BACKGROUND: Cognitive profile in migraine patients still remains undefined. Contradictory evidence has been provided, with impairments in different cognitive domains, normal cognition, or even better performance compared to healthy controls (HC). The latter is of particular interest considering the evidence of glutamatergic upregulation in migraine, particularly in the visual cortex, and the role of the glutamatergic system in synaptic plasticity and learning. The aim of our study is to compare cognitive performance for visuospatial memory and learning (supraspan modality) between migraineurs without aura (MwoA) and HC.
METHODS: Twenty-one subjects suffering from MwoA and 21 HC were enrolled. Migraineurs during the interictal phase and HC underwent visuospatial memory test (Corsi test) and verbal memory test (Buschke Selective Reminding Test) in supraspan modality, Trial Making Test A (TMTA) and B (TMTB) as test exploring attention, and TMTB-TMTA as test of executive functioning. Depression was assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory Short Form (BDI-SF). Migraine characteristics (i.e., disease duration and frequency expressed as attacks per month) were collected.
RESULTS: Subjects with MwoA showed better performance than HC in test exploring both short (p = 0.002) and long-term (p = 0.001) visuospatial memory. No significant difference between groups was found in verbal memory, attention, executive functioning, and depression (BDI-SF). No significant association emerged between cognitive performance and migraine characteristics.
DISCUSSION: Subjects with MwoA had significant better performance in visuospatial memory and learning than HC. Occipito-parietal hyperexcitability (in particular in the visual cortex), which is a hallmark of the migraine brain, would probably explain these results. These data need to be confirmed in larger samples of migraineurs.