Abnormal Glutamatergic and Serotonergic Connectivity in Visual Snow Syndrome and Migraine with Aura

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2 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Neuropharmacological changes in visual snow syndrome (VSS) are poorly understood. We aimed to use receptor target maps combined with resting functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data to identify which neurotransmitters might modulate brain circuits involved in VSS.

METHODS: We used Receptor-Enriched Analysis of Functional Connectivity by Targets (REACT) to estimate and compare the molecular-enriched functional networks related to 5 neurotransmitter systems of patients with VSS (n = 24), healthy controls (HCs; n = 24), and migraine patients ([MIG], n = 25, 15 of whom had migraine with aura [MwA]). For REACT we used receptor density templates for the transporters of noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin, GABA-A and NMDA receptors, as well as 5HT 1B and 5HT 2A receptors, and estimated the subject-specific voxel-wise maps of functional connectivity (FC). We then performed voxel-wise comparisons of these maps among HCs, MIG, and VSS.

RESULTS: Patients with VSS had reduced FC in glutamatergic networks localized in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) compared to HCs and patients with migraine, and reduced FC in serotoninergic networks localized in the insula, temporal pole, and orbitofrontal cortex compared to controls, similar to patients with migraine with aura. Patients with VSS also showed reduced FC in 5HT 2A -enriched networks, largely localized in occipito-temporo-parietal association cortices. As revealed by subgroup analyses, these changes were independent of, and analogous to, those found in patients with migraine with aura.

INTERPRETATION: Our results show that glutamate and serotonin are involved in brain connectivity alterations in areas of the visual, salience, and limbic systems in VSS. Importantly, altered serotonergic connectivity is independent of migraine in VSS, and simultaneously comparable to that of migraine with aura, highlighting a shared biology between the disorders. ANN NEUROL 2023;94:873-884.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-884
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number5
Early online date8 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Humans
  • Migraine with Aura/diagnostic imaging
  • Serotonin
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging/methods
  • Brain/diagnostic imaging


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