Neuroimaging in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias

The Journal of Headache and PainIacovelli E et al. | November 29, 2011

Given the rapid advances in functional and structural neuroimaging methodologies, it can be expected that these non–invasive techniques will continue to improve the understanding into the nature of the brain dysfunction in cluster headache and other trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias.

  • The central nervous system mechanisms involved in trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, a group of primary headaches characterized by strictly unilateral head pain that occurs in association with ipsilateral craniofacial autonomic features, are still not comprehensively understood.
  • However, functional imaging methods have revolutionized our understanding of mechanisms involved in these primary headache syndromes.
  • The present review provides a brief overview of the major modern functional neuroimaging techniques used to examine brain structure, biochemistry, metabolic state, and functional capacity.
  • The available functional neuroimaging data in cluster headache and other TACs will thus be summarized.
  • Although the precise brain structures responsible for these primary headache syndromes still remain to be determined, neuroimaging data suggest a major role for posterior hypothalamus activation in initiating and maintaining attacks.
  • Furthermore, pathophysiological involvement of the pain neuromatrix and of the central descending opiatergic pain control system was observed.

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