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Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2010 Apr;14(2):151-9. doi: 10.1007/s11916-010-0099-5.

Deep brain stimulation in cluster headache: hypothalamus or midbrain tegmentum?

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Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London, UK.


Functional and structural neuroimaging studies have provided pivotal insights into the pathophysiology of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias (TACs), particularly cluster headache (CH). Functional imaging studies using positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in TACs have reported activation of the posterior hypothalamus. A structural neuroimaging study using voxel-based morphometry in CH reported increased volume of the hypothalamic gray, although another larger study failed to reproduce this finding. These studies in CH prompted the use of stereotactic stimulation of the target point identified by functional and structural neuroimaging. The precise anatomical localization of the deep brain stimulation (DBS) target places it at the midbrain tegmentum rather than the posterior hypothalamus. A comparison of the PET and fMRI studies in TACs reveals that the diencephalic/mesencephalic activation is more posteroinferior in the PET studies, straddling the hypothalamus and midbrain tegmentum, whereas the activation is centered on the hypothalamus in the higher spatial resolution fMRI studies. To optimize the outcomes from DBS, it is likely that patients will need to be studied individually using functional imaging techniques that have high spatial and temporal resolution to enable targeting of the appropriate locus with stereotactic stimulation.

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