Cortical glutamate in migraine

Ronald Zielman, Jannie P Wijnen, Andrew Webb, Gerrit L J Onderwater, Itamar Ronen, Michel D. Ferrari, Hermien E Kan, Gisela M. Terwindt, Mark C Kruit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cortical hyperexcitability due to enhanced glutamatergic activity has been implicated in migraine pathophysiology but direct evidence is lacking. Here we assessed glutamate levels and intracellular mobility of glutamate in the visual cortex of migraineurs in-between attacks. We included 50 migraineurs (23 with aura and 27 without aura) and 24 age- and gender-matched non-headache controls. We used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) and diffusion weighted spectroscopy at 7 T with a single volume of interest (2 × 2 × 3 cm) located in the primary and secondary visual cortex. For 1H-MRS we used a semi-LASER sequence with water referencing for absolute quantification. For diffusion weighted spectroscopy we used an adapted PRESS sequence with gradients applied in three directions and two different gradient amplitudes. Between-group differences were evaluated using analysis of covariance with the grey matter fraction in the volume of interest as covariate and post hoc comparisons with Bonferroni correction. Glutamate concentrations differed between groups (P = 0.047) and were higher in migraineurs without aura (mean ± standard deviation: 7.02 ± 0.50 mM) compared to controls (mean ± standard deviation: 6.40 ± 0.78 mM, P = 0.042). The apparent diffusion coefficient of glutamate was similar among groups (P = 0.129) suggesting similar inter- and intracellular mobility of glutamate in all three study groups. No differences were observed for concentrations and diffusion constants of other metabolites. The present study suggests that interictal glutamate levels are increased in the visual cortex of migraineurs without aura, supporting the hypothesis of cortical hyperexcitability in migraine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1859-1871
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017


  • diffusion weighted spectroscopy
  • glutamate
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • migraine


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