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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1989;14(5):357-63.

Neuroendocrine evidence of deranged noradrenergic activity in chronic migraine.

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Department of Neurology, IRCCS C. Mondino, University of Pavia, Italy.


Migraine is a psychobiological disorder in which a recurrent failure of opioid and adrenergic systems might occur, as plasma and CSF studies suggest. In order to elucidate the relationship between noradrenergic and opioidergic functions, the plasma beta-endorphin (beta-EP) response to clonidine and the cortisol response to dexamethasone were evaluated together in 25 patients suffering from migraine without aura, and with chronic tension headache (MTH). Baseline beta-EP plasma levels and beta-EP response to clonidine were significantly lower in MTH subjects than in controls, suggesting a postsynaptic hypothalamo-pituitary impairment. Forty-four percent of the MTH subjects showed either a lack of suppression of plasma cortisol following dexamethasone administration, or basal cortisol concentrations higher than controls and suppressors, suggesting a disinhibition of the hypothalamopituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. An inverse correlation was found between pain severity and beta-EP secretion induced by clonidine (delta max), and no relationship was found between beta-EP and mood. These data suggest a failure of central noradrenergic activity, or perhaps an impaired secretion of beta-EP not related to HPA axis hyperactivity or to affective state.

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