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Volume 16 Supplement 1

1st Joint ANIRCEF-SISC Congress

  • Invited speaker presentation
  • Open Access

Neural plasticity and migraine

The Journal of Headache and Pain201516 (Suppl 1) :A26

  • Published:


  • Migraine
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Migraine Attack
  • Episodic Migraine
  • Neural Plasticity


During recent years, various experimental data suggested that the functional state of the migraineur's brain fluctuates in relation with the cyclical recurrence of the migraine attack. This was historically observed with the methods of clinical neurophysiology that revealed interictal deficient habituation of any kind of sensory responses - with the notable exception of the olfaction - that was attributed to abnormal thalamo-cortical interactions and its normalization during an attack. On the other hand, studies with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), have reported interictal paradoxical cortical responses in reaction to both depressing or enhancing rTMS and their changes up to the bending point of an attack when cortical responsivity behaves differently.

Such recurring changes were confirmed recently with morphological and functional neuroimaging methodologies. For instance, fMRI BOLD responses induced by painful stimuli differed between ictal and interictal scans in episodic migraine. We recently showed that cyclic changes can also be demonstrated at rest, i.e. without any sensory input, in anisotropy of thalamic microstructure, in grey matter density of temporo-parietal areas, and in interconnectivity among large scale cortical networks. The conjunction of neuroimaging and neurophysiological data can be considered as robust evidence favouring cycling morphological and functional brain alterations as prominent features of migraine pathophysiology.


Both the abnormal neurophysiological information processing and morphological brain changes point to altered neural plasticity mechanisms, which prevent the immediate and longer-lasting cortical changes that allow multimodal sensory integration and reflect adaptation to headache recurrence.

Authors’ Affiliations

Department of Neurophysiology of Vision and Neurophthalmology, G.B. Bietti Foundation IRCCS, Rome, Italy


© Coppola 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


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