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Cereb Cortex. 2011 Feb;21(2):435-48. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq109. Epub 2010 Jun 18.

Painful heat reveals hyperexcitability of the temporal pole in interictal and ictal migraine States.

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Pain/Analgesia Imaging Neuroscience Group, Department of Psychiatry, Brain Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Belmont, MA 02478, USA.


During migraine attacks, alterations in sensation accompanying headache may manifest as allodynia and enhanced sensitivity to light, sound, and odors. Our objective was to identify physiological changes in cortical regions in migraine patients using painful heat and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and the structural basis for such changes using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). In 11 interictal patients, painful heat threshold + 1°C was applied unilaterally to the forehead during fMRI scanning. Significantly greater activation was identified in the medial temporal lobe in patients relative to healthy subjects, specifically in the anterior temporal pole (TP). In patients, TP showed significantly increased functional connectivity in several brain regions relative to controls, suggesting that TP hyperexcitability may contribute to functional abnormalities in migraine. In 9 healthy subjects, DTI identified white matter connectivity between TP and pulvinar nucleus, which has been related to migraine. In 8 patients, fMRI activation in TP with painful heat was exacerbated during migraine, suggesting that repeated migraines may sensitize TP. This article investigates a nonclassical role of TP in migraineurs. Observed temporal lobe abnormalities may provide a basis for many of the perceptual changes in migraineurs and may serve as a potential interictal biomarker for drug efficacy.

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