Structural aberrations of the brain associated with migraine: A narrative review

Soo Kyoung Kim, Simona Nikolova, Todd J. Schwedt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: To summarize major results from imaging studies investigating brain structure in migraine. Background: Neuroimaging studies, using several different imaging and analysis techniques, have demonstrated aberrations in brain structure associated with migraine. This narrative review summarizes key imaging findings and relates imaging findings with clinical features of migraine. Methods: We searched PubMed for English language articles using the key words “neuroimaging” AND/OR “MRI” combined with “migraine” through August 20, 2020. The titles and abstracts of resulting articles were reviewed for their possible inclusion in this manuscript, followed by examination of the full texts and reference lists of relevant articles. Results: Migraine is associated with structural brain aberrations within regions that participate in pain processing, the processing of other sensory stimuli, multisensory integration, and in white matter fiber tracts. Furthermore, migraine is associated with magnetic resonance imaging T2/fluid-attenuated inversion recovery white matter hyperintensities. Some structural aberrations are correlated with the severity and clinical features of migraine, whereas others are not. These findings suggest that some structural abnormalities are associated with or amplified by recurrent migraine attacks, whereas others are intrinsic to the migraine brain. Conclusions: Migraine is associated with aberrant brain structure. Structural neuroimaging studies contribute to understanding migraine pathophysiology and identification of brain regions associated with migraine and its individual symptoms. Additional work is needed to determine the extent to which structural aberrations are a result of recurrent migraine attacks, and perhaps reversible with effective treatment or migraine resolution, versus being intrinsic traits of the migraine brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1159-1179
Number of pages21
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • anatomical
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • migraine
  • morphological
  • neuroimaging
  • structural

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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