King's College London

Research portal

The role of the brainstem in migraine: Potential brainstem effects of CGRP and CGRP receptor activation in animal models

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Feb 2018


King's Authors



Migraine is a severe debilitating disorder of the brain that is ranked as the sixth most disabling disorder globally, with respect to disability adjusted life years, and there remains a significant unmet demand for an improved understanding of its underlying mechanisms. In conjunction with perturbed sensory processing, migraine sufferers often present with diverse neurological manifestations (premonitory symptoms) that highlight potential brainstem involvement. Thus, as the field moves away from the view of migraine as a consequence of purely vasodilation to a greater understanding of migraine as a complex brain disorder, it is critical to consider the underlying physiology and pharmacology of key neural networks likely involved. 


The current review will therefore focus on the available evidence for the brainstem as a key regulator of migraine biology and associated symptoms. We will further discuss the potential role of CGRP in the brainstem and its modulation for migraine therapy, given the emergence of targeted CGRP small molecule and monoclonal antibody therapies. 


The brainstem forms a functional unit with several hypothalamic nuclei that are capable of modulating diverse functions including migraine-relevant trigeminal pain processing, appetite and arousal regulatory networks. As such, the brainstem has emerged as a key regulator of migraine and is appropriately considered as a potential therapeutic target. While currently available CGRP targeted therapies have limited blood brain barrier penetrability, the expression of CGRP and its receptors in several key brainstem nuclei and the demonstration of brainstem effects of CGRP modulation highlight the significant potential for the development of CNS penetrant molecules.

Download statistics

No data available

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454