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Cephalalgia. 2003 Feb;23(1):29-34.

Central 5-HT receptor hypersensitivity in migraine without aura.

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Migraine/Headache Clinic, Department of Neurology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.


Serotonin has long been implicated as a key neurotransmitter in migraine. There is a dearth of research specifically examining 5-HT1A receptor sensitivity in migraine despite the importance of this receptor in regulating central serotonergic tone. In this study we examined the hypothesis that migraine without aura is associated with hypersensitivity of central 5-HT1A receptors, using a 5-HT1A neuroendocrine challenge drug and comparing serum prolactin responses between a test group with migraine and a matched group of healthy controls. Twelve female subjects fulfilling International Headache Society (IHS) criteria for migraine without aura were evaluated. Following an overnight fast, subjects presented for testing at 9am. An intravenous canula was inserted and serum prolactin was assessed at baseline and every 30 min for 3 h following a single dose of 30 mg oral buspirone, a 5-HT1A-receptor agonist. Subjects were assessed during the first 5 days of the menstrual cycle. No subjects were taking psychotropic medication or migraine prophylactic treatment. Patients with current or previous psychiatric disorder, daily headache or analgesic overuse were excluded. 16 healthy female volunteers matched for age and menstrual status were also evaluated and served as controls. There was no difference in baseline prolactin between groups. There was a significant rise in prolactin following buspirone in both groups. Subjects with migraine had a significantly increased prolactin response to buspirone (delta max) compared to controls (P < 0.001). This study supports the hypothesis that migraine without aura is associated with a relative hypersensitivity of central 5-HT1A receptors. This is of relevance given the role of the 5-HT1A receptor in controlling raphe 5-HT tone and in the possible association between migraine and anxiety and depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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