Response Inhibition Control in Migraineurs

Wendy Wu ’22

Figure 1: Migraine is an extremely prevalent disorder, causes debilitating headaches, and there is more to learn about its pathophysiology.

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by frequent headaches, particularly prevalent in women. Much research has gone into identifying the causes of migraines with the hope of increasing preventative measures and developing treatment. Although evidence suggests that migraines are caused by an imbalance of cortical excitatory and inhibitory processes, there is little empirical data of actual pathophysiological features underlying response inhibition in migraineurs. Guoliang Chen, a student at the Medical School of Chinese PLA in Beijing, sought to examine these features, expecting deficits in cortical inhibitory control. 

Chen et al. recruited 22 participants with migraines without aura (MwoA), or sensory disturbances, and 25 healthy controls. Participants, most of whom were women, were asked to perform the stop-signal task (SST), a task divided into two parts: Go and Stop. On the Go trials, participants were shown a fixed cross on a black screen for 600-800 ms. This was followed by the letter X or O, indicating the Go signal, and participants must recognize the shape of the symbol and press an associated button with their index fingers. On the Stop trials, a red square above the X or O will show 0-250 ms after the Go signal. Participants must not press a button in this trial. This procedure was repeated in four experimental blocks with a total of 400 trials—80% of which were Go trials, 20% Stop. To complement SST, researchers also evaluated event-related potentials (ERP), the measured brain activity of participants in response to Go and Stop signals, via EEG. 

Participants with MwoA had significantly slower reaction times to both Go and Stop signals (448.56 ms ± 40.28, 303.48 ms ± 41.87) than the healthy controls (424.19 ms ± 33.71, 278.44 ms ± 32.65).  In addition, EEG data showed larger amplitudes for N2 and P3, two components of ERP associated with normal response inhibition. Amplitude for N2 peaked in the central and centro-parietal regions of the brain, and for P3 in the fronto-central to centro-parietal regions—regions associated with the sensory cortex. The slower reaction times, as well as higher expression of N2 and P3, suggest an impairment of inhibition control during information processing in migraineurs. Further research could reinforce these results by utilizing larger sample sizes and tasks other than SST, as it has been observed that different tasks activate different regions of the brain. This could result in further insight into the cognitive dysfunctions of migraines, leading to improved clinical therapy and management. 

Works Cited:

[1] G. Chen, et al., Response inhibition alterations in migraine: evidence from event-related potentials and evoked oscillations. The Journal of Headache and Pain 21, (2020). doi: 10.1186/s10194-020-01187-2

[2] Image retrieved from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-tank-top-showing-distress-3812745/

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