A study in Neurology done by the University of Michigan using PET scans shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine falls and fluctuates with migraines. (Brain scans show dopamine levels fall during migraine attacks) This could lead to better migraine therapies and also understand our behaviours during a migraine attack. Dopamine is the brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter and it is responsible for such things as motivation, mood regulation, and sensory perception.
They looked at the brains of 8 migraineurs and 8 healthy controls during migraine attacks and between the attacks. The migraineurs between attacks had normal and stable dopamine but in an attack it significantly dropped.
“Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters controlling sensory sensitivity,” said study co-author Kenneth Casey, U-M professor emeritus of neurology. “Therefore, a drop in dopamine could produce increased sensory sensitivity so that normally painless or imperceptible sensory signals from skin, muscle and blood vessels could become painful.” MedicalXpress
DaSilva says he was surprised when patients who were resting during their migraine attacks experienced a small dopamine spike and worsening symptoms when researchers applied warmth to their foreheads.
This condition in chronic pain patients is called allodynia—when a stimulus that normally wouldn’t cause pain does. DaSilva says the sudden small spike in dopamine was probably an aversive reaction to environmental stimulation.
This small fluctuation was only a partial recovery of dopamine, but it made the suffering worse because the dopamine receptors were highly sensitive by then, and even a small recovery would induce more nausea, vomiting and other symptoms related to migraine, he says.MedicalXpress