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Papers of the Week

Papers: 12 Feb 2022 - 18 Feb 2022



Brain Commun



Cortical oscillatory dysrhythmias in visual snow syndrome: a magnetoencephalography study.


Hepschke JL, Seymour RA, He W, Etchell A, Sowman PF, Fraser CL
Brain Commun. 2022; 4(1):fcab296.
PMID: 35169699.


Visual snow refers to the persistent visual experience of static in the whole visual field of both eyes. It is often reported by patients with migraine and co-occurs with conditions such as tinnitus and tremor. The underlying pathophysiology of the condition is poorly understood. Previously, we hypothesized that visual snow syndrome may be characterized by disruptions to rhythmical activity within the visual system. To test this, data from 18 patients diagnosed with visual snow syndrome, and 16 matched controls, were acquired using magnetoencephalography. Participants were presented with visual grating stimuli, known to elicit decreases in alpha-band (8-13 Hz) power and increases in gamma-band power (40-70 Hz). Data were mapped to source-space using a beamformer. Across both groups, decreased alpha power and increased gamma power localized to early visual cortex. Data from the primary visual cortex were compared between groups. No differences were found in either alpha or gamma peak frequency or the magnitude of alpha power,  > 0.05. However, compared with controls, our visual snow syndrome cohort displayed significantly increased primary visual cortex gamma power,  = 0.035. This new electromagnetic finding concurs with previous functional MRI and PET findings, suggesting that in visual snow syndrome, the visual cortex is hyperexcitable. The coupling of alpha-phase to gamma amplitude within the primary visual cortex was also quantified. Compared with controls, the visual snow syndrome group had significantly reduced alpha-gamma phase-amplitude coupling,  < 0.05, indicating a potential excitation-inhibition imbalance in visual snow syndrome, as well as a potential disruption to top-down 'noise-cancellation' mechanisms. Overall, these results suggest that rhythmical brain activity in the primary visual cortex is both hyperexcitable and disorganized in visual snow syndrome, consistent with this being a condition of thalamocortical dysrhythmia.