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Treating chronic migraine with neuromodulation: The role of neurophysiological abnormalities and maladaptive plasticity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Alessandro Viganò, Massimiliano Toscano, Francesca Puledda, Vittorio Di Piero

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Volume10
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2019

King's Authors

Abstract

Chronic migraine (CM) is the most disabling form of migraine, because pharmacological treatments have low efficacy and cumbersome side effects. New evidence has shown that migraine is primarily a disorder of brain plasticity and migraine chronification depends on a maladaptive process favoring the development of a brain state of hyperexcitability. Due to the ability to induce plastic changes in the brain, researchers started to look at Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS) as a possible therapeutic option in migraine field. On one side, NIBS techniques induce changes of neural plasticity that outlast the period of the stimulation (a fundamental prerequisite of a prophylactic migraine treatment, concurrently they allow targeting neurophysiological abnormalities that contribute to the transition from episodic to CM. The action may thus influence not only the cortex but also brainstem and diencephalic structures. Plus, NIBS is not burdened by serious medication side effects and drug-drug interactions. Although the majority of the studies reported somewhat beneficial effects in migraine patients, no standard intervention has been defined. This may be due to methodological differences regarding the used techniques (e.g., transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation), the brain regions chosen as targets, and the stimulation types (e.g., the use of inhibitory and excitatory stimulations on the basis of opposite rationales), and an intrinsic variability of stimulation effect. Hence, it is difficult to draw a conclusion on the real effect of neuromodulation in migraine. In this article, we first will review the definition and mechanisms of brain plasticity, some neurophysiological hallmarks of migraine, and migraine chronification-related (dys)plasticity. Secondly, we will review available results from therapeutic and physiological studies using neuromodulation in CM. Lastly we will discuss the results obtained in these preventive trials in the light of a possible effect on brain plasticity.

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