Are some patient-perceived migraine triggers simply early manifestations of the attack?

Nazia Karsan*, Pyari Bose, Jayde Newman, Peter J. Goadsby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To study the agreement between self-reported trigger factors and early premonitory symptoms amongst a group of migraineurs in both spontaneous and pharmacologically provoked attacks. Methods: Fifty-three subjects with migraine with and without aura, with ≤ 22 headache days/month, with spontaneous premonitory symptoms associated with migraine attacks were recruited nationally. A detailed history was taken by a study investigator to confirm diagnosis and extended phenotyping was performed to identify patient-reported triggers for migraine attacks, premonitory symptom phenotype and headache characteristics, using a standardised physician-administered questionnaire. The same subjects were exposed to a 0.5 mcg/kg/min nitroglycerin infusion over 20 min, to determine if similar migraine symptoms could be triggered. The triggered attacks were phenotyped in the same way as spontaneous ones. Percentage agreement and Cohen’s kappa measure of agreement were used to identify concordance between patient-reported triggers and the corresponding spontaneous and triggered premonitory symptoms. Percentage agreement of > 60% and/or a kappa value > 0.3 with P < 0.05 were considered significant. Results: There was statistically significant agreement between perception of light as a migraine trigger and spontaneous premonitory photophobia; perception of sound as a trigger and triggered premonitory phonophobia; skipping meals as a trigger and spontaneous premonitory food cravings; and food triggers and spontaneous premonitory food cravings. There was good agreement between stress and premonitory triggered mood change. Conclusions: At least some patient-reported triggers, such as light, sound, foods and skipping meals, may represent early brain manifestations of the premonitory phase of the migraine attack.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1885-1893
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Premonitory
  • Prodrome
  • Triggers


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