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Exp Brain Res. 2002 Jul;145(2):177-81. Epub 2002 May 9.

Modulation of visual cortical excitability in migraine with aura: effects of 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

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  • 1Istituto di Neuropsichiatria, Universit√† di Palermo, via G. La Loggia 1, 90129 Palermo, Italy.


Recent studies showed hyperexcitability of the occipital cortex in subjects affected by migraine with aura. It has been shown that 1 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) reduces excitability of visual cortex in normal subjects. The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of low frequency (1 Hz) rTMS on visual cortical excitability by measuring changes in phosphene threshold (PT) in subjects with migraine with aura. Thirteen patients with migraine with aura and 15 healthy controls were examined. Using a standardized transcranial magnetic stimulation protocol of the occipital cortex, we assessed the PT (the lowest magnetic stimulation intensity at which subjects just perceived phosphenes) before and after a 1-Hz rTMS train delivered at PT intensity for 15 min. The difference in the proportion of subjects reporting phosphenes in migrainer and control groups was significant (migrainers: 100% vs controls 47%; P<0.05), and 1 Hz rTMS over the occipital cortex led to a significantly increased visual cortex excitability expressed as a decrease in PT in subjects affected by migraine with aura. Conversely, after a 1-Hz TMS train normal subjects showed increased PT values, which suggests a decreased visual cortex excitability. Our findings confirm that the visual cortex is hyperexcitable in migrainers and suggest a failure of inhibitory circuits, which are unable to be upregulated by low frequency rTMS.

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