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J Neurosci. 2010 Oct 27;30(43):14420-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3025-10.2010.

Changes of meningeal excitability mediated by corticotrigeminal networks: a link for the endogenous modulation of migraine pain.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

Abstract

Alterations in cortical excitability are implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine. However, the relationship between cortical spreading depression (CSD) and headache has not been fully elucidated. We aimed to identify the corticofugal networks that directly influence meningeal nociception in the brainstem trigeminocervical complex (Sp5C) of the rat. Cortical areas projecting to the brainstem were first identified by retrograde tracing from Sp5C areas that receive direct meningeal inputs. Anterograde tracers were then injected into these cortical areas to determine the precise pattern of descending axonal terminal fields in the Sp5C. Descending cortical projections to brainstem areas innervated by the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve originate contralaterally from insular (Ins) and primary somatosensory (S1) cortices and terminate in laminae I-II and III-V of the Sp5C, respectively. In another set of experiments, electrophysiological recordings were simultaneously performed in Ins, S1 or primary visual cortex (V1), and Sp5C neurons. KCl was microinjected into such cortical areas to test the effects of CSD on meningeal nociception. CSD initiated in Ins and S1 induced facilitation and inhibition of meningeal-evoked responses, respectively. CSD triggered in V1 affects differently Ins and S1 cortices, enhancing or inhibiting meningeal-evoked responses of Sp5C, without affecting cutaneous-evoked nociceptive responses. Our data suggest that "top-down" influences from lateralized areas within Ins and S1 selectively affect interoceptive (meningeal) over exteroceptive (cutaneous) nociceptive inputs onto Sp5C. Such corticofugal influences could contribute to the development of migraine pain in terms of both topographic localization and pain tuning during an attack.

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