In adult patients with migraine, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been used to examine cortical excitability between attacks, but there have been discrepant results. No TMS study has examined cortical excitability in children or adolescents with migraine. Here, we employed TMS to study regional excitability of the occipital (phosphene threshold [PT] and suppression of visual perception) and motor (resting motor threshold and cortical silent period) cortex in ten children suffering from migraine without aura and ten healthy age-matched controls. Patients were studied 1-2 days before and after a migraine attack as well as during the inter-migraine interval. The motion aftereffect was also investigated at each time-point as an index of cortical reactivity to moving visual stimuli. Migraineurs had lower PTs compared to healthy participants at each time-point, indicating increased occipital excitability. This increase in occipital excitability was attenuated 1-2 days before a migraine attack as indicated by a relative increase in PTs. The increase in PTs before the next attack was associated with a stronger TMS-induced suppression of visual perception and a prolongation of the motion aftereffect. Motor cortex excitability was not altered in patients and did not change during the migraine cycle. These findings show that pediatric migraine without aura is associated with a systematic shift in occipital excitability preceding the migraine attack. Similar systematic fluctuations in cortical excitability might be present in adult migraineurs and may reflect either a protective mechanism or an abnormal decrease in cortical excitability that predisposes an individual to a migraine attack.
Keywords: Adolescent; Analysis of Variance; Case-Control Studies; Cerebral Cortex; Child; Databases, Factual; Electric Stimulation; Evoked Potentials, Motor; Female; Humans; Male; Migraine without Aura; Motion Perception; Statistics as Topic; Time Factors; Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation; Visual Perception