OBJECTIVE: To investigate the functional response of neural pathways associated with vestibular stimulation in patients with vestibular migraine (VM). METHODS: Twelve patients with VM underwent whole-brain blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI during ear irrigation with cold water. The functional response of neural pathways to this stimulation in patients with VM was compared with age- and sex-matched patients with migraine without aura and healthy controls. Secondary analyses explored associations between BOLD signal change and clinical features of migraine in patients. RESULTS: We observed a robust cortical and subcortical pattern of BOLD signal change in response to ear irrigation across all participants. Patients with VM showed a significantly increased thalamic activation in comparison with both patients with migraine without aura and healthy controls. The magnitude of thalamic activation was positively correlated with the frequency of migraine attacks in patients with VM. CONCLUSIONS: We provide novel evidence for abnormal thalamic functional response to vestibular stimulation in patients with VM. These functional abnormalities in central vestibular processing may contribute to VM pathophysiology. ©
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