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Papers of the Week

Papers: 15 Jul 2023 - 21 Jul 2023


Human Studies, Molecular/Cellular, Neurobiology

Migraine/Headache, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 Jul 15

Eur J Neurosci


Sex and stress hormone dysregulation as clinical manifestations of hypothalamic function in migraine disorder: A meta-analysis.


Beech EL, Riddell N, Murphy MJ, Crewther SG


Migraine is a leading cause of disability in young adults. It occurs more frequently in females, often comorbidly with stress disorders, suggesting an association with hypothalamic sex and stress hormonal function and a likely interaction with autonomic nervous system activation. Thus, this study aimed to meta-analyse current literature pertaining to female and male sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone concentration), hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) cortisol responses and heart rate variability (HRV) in migraineurs and controls aged 13-65 years. A systematic search of MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, PubMed, CINAHL and Web of Science databases on 29/08/2022 identified 29 studies for meta-analysis (encompassing 719 migraineur and 592 control participants) that met inclusion and NHLBI risk of bias criteria. Results demonstrated that estrogen concentrations of female migraineurs were reduced (g = -.60, 95% CI [-.91, -.29], p < .001) in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, compared to controls. No differences were found in progesterone levels overall in female migraineurs, nor in testosterone levels in male migraineurs compared to controls. Further, early diurnal cortisol concentrations were elevated (g = .32, 95% CI [.00, .63], p = .036) in female and male migraineurs compared to controls, though no differences were found in HRV of female or male migraineurs compared to controls. These findings of dysregulation of estrogen in females and cortisol dysregulation in female and male migraineurs indicate perturbed hypothalamic function and highlight the association of migraine with stress and the need for further rigorous investigation of hypothalamic neuroendocrine functions in migraineurs of both sexes.