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Papers of the Week

Papers: 30 Jul 2022 - 5 Aug 2022

Human Studies



Front Pain Res (Lausanne)


Alterations in brain structure associated with trigeminal nerve anatomy in episodic migraine.


Mungoven TJ, Meylakh N, Macefield VG, Macey PM, Henderson LA
Front Pain Res (Lausanne). 2022; 3:951581.
PMID: 35923273.


The pathophysiology of migraine remains to be elucidated. We have recently shown that interictal migraineurs exhibit reduced fractional anisotropy (FA) in the root entry zone of the trigeminal nerve when compared to controls, but it is not known if this altered nerve anatomy is associated with changes within the brainstem or higher cortical brain regions. Diffusion tensor imaging of the brain was used to calculate regional measures of structure, including mean diffusivity (MD), axial diffusivity (AX) and radial diffusivity (RD) in addition to voxel-based morphometry of T1-weighted anatomical images. Linear relationships between trigeminal nerve anatomy (FA) and MD throughout the brainstem and/or higher cortical regions were determined in both controls ( = 31, brainstem; = 38, wholebrain) and interictal migraineurs ( = 32, brainstem; = 38, wholebrain). Additionally, within the same brain areas, relationships of AX and RD with nerve FA were determined. We found that in both interictal migraine and control participants, decreasing trigeminal nerve FA was associated with significantly increased MD in brainstem regions including the spinal trigeminal nucleus and midbrain periaqueductal gray matter (PAG), and in higher brain regions such as the hypothalamus, insula, posterior cingulate, primary somatosensory and primary visual (V1) cortices. Whereas, both control and migraineur groups individually displayed significant inverse correlations between nerve FA and MD, in migraineurs this pattern was disrupted in the areas of the PAG and V1, with only the control group displaying a significant linear relationship (PAG controls = -0.58, = 0.003; migraineurs = -0.25, = 0.17 and V1 controls = -0.52, = 0.002; migraineurs = -0.10, = 0.55). Contrastingly, we found no gray matter volume changes in brainstem or wholebrain areas. These data show that overall, trigeminal nerve anatomy is significantly related to regional brain structure in both controls and migraineurs. Importantly, the PAG showed a disruption of this relationship in migraineurs suggesting that the anatomy and possibly the function of the PAG is uniquely altered in episodic migraine, which may contribute to altered orofacial pain processing in migraine.