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Papers of the Week

Papers: 3 Oct 2020 - 9 Oct 2020


Prog Brain Res


The visual system as target of non-invasive brain stimulation for migraine treatment: Current insights and future challenges.


The visual network is crucially implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine. Several lines of evidence indicate that migraine is characterized by an altered visual cortex excitability both during and between attacks. Visual symptoms, the most common clinical manifestation of migraine aura, are likely the result of cortical spreading depression originating from the extrastriate area V3A. Photophobia, a clinical hallmark of migraine, is linked to an abnormal sensory processing of the thalamus which is converged with the non-image forming visual pathway. Finally, visual snow is an increasingly recognized persistent visual phenomenon in migraine, possibly caused by increased perception of subthreshold visual stimuli. Emerging research in non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has vastly developed into a diversity of areas with promising potential. One of its clinical applications is the single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS) applied over the occipital cortex which has been approved for treating migraine with aura, albeit limited evidence. Studies have also investigated other NIBS techniques, such as repetitive TMS (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), for migraine prophylaxis but with conflicting results. As a dynamic brain disorder with widespread pathophysiology, targeting migraine with NIBS is challenging. Furthermore, unlike the motor cortex, evidence suggests that the visual cortex may be less plastic. Controversy exists as to whether the same fundamental principles of NIBS, based mainly on findings in the motor cortex, can be applied to the visual cortex. This review aims to explore existing literature surrounding NIBS studies on the visual system of migraine. We will first provide an overview highlighting the direct implication of the visual network in migraine. Next, we will focus on the rationale behind using NIBS for migraine treatment, including its effects on the visual cortex, and the shortcomings of currently available evidence. Finally, we propose a broader perspective of how novel approaches, the concept of brain networks and the integration of multimodal imaging with computational modeling, can help refine current NIBS methods, with the ultimate goal of optimizing a more individualized treatment for migraine.