Association between migraine frequency and neural response to emotional faces: An fMRI study

Edina Szabó, Attila Galambos, Natália Kocsel, Andrea Edit Édes, Dorottya Pap, Terézia Zsombók, Lajos Rudolf Kozák, György Bagdy, Gyöngyi Kökönyei, Gabriella Juhász

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have demonstrated that migraine is associated with enhanced perception and altered cerebral processing of sensory stimuli. More recently, it has been suggested that this sensory hypersensitivity might reflect a more general enhanced response to aversive emotional stimuli. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and emotional face stimuli (fearful, happy and sad faces), we compared whole-brain activation between 41 migraine patients without aura in interictal period and 49 healthy controls. Migraine patients showed increased neural activation to fearful faces compared to neutral faces in the right middle frontal gyrus and frontal pole relative to healthy controls. We also found that higher attack frequency in migraine patients was related to increased activation mainly in the right primary somatosensory cortex (corresponding to the face area) to fearful expressions and in the right dorsal striatal regions to happy faces. In both analyses, activation differences remained significant after controlling for anxiety and depressive symptoms. These findings indicate that enhanced response to emotional stimuli might explain the migraine trigger effect of psychosocial stressors that gradually leads to increased somatosensory response to emotional clues and thus contributes to the progression or chronification of migraine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101790
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Early online date26 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Emotion processing
  • fMRI
  • Headache chronification
  • Migraine
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Somatosensory cortex


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