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Neurovascular mechanisms of migraine and cluster headache

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Jan Hoffmann, Serapio M Baca, Simon Akerman

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-594
JournalJournal of cerebral blood flow and metabolism : official journal of the International Society of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jan 2017
E-pub ahead of print1 Jan 2017
PublishedApr 2019

King's Authors


Vascular theories of migraine and cluster headache have dominated for many years the pathobiological concept of these disorders. This view is supported by observations that trigeminal activation induces a vascular response and that several vasodilating molecules trigger acute attacks of migraine and cluster headache in susceptible individuals. Over the past 30 years, this rationale has been questioned as it became clear that the actions of some of these molecules, in particular, calcitonin gene-related peptide and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide, extend far beyond the vasoactive effects, as they possess the ability to modulate nociceptive neuronal activity in several key regions of the trigeminovascular system. These findings have shifted our understanding of these disorders to a primarily neuronal origin with the vascular manifestations being the consequence rather than the origin of trigeminal activation. Nevertheless, the neurovascular component, or coupling, seems to be far more complex than initially thought, being involved in several accompanying features. The review will discuss in detail the anatomical basis and the functional role of the neurovascular mechanisms relevant to migraine and cluster headache.

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