Title: Investigation of serotonin receptor binding in the migraine brain using positron emission tomography

PhD-student: Marie Deen Christensen, NRU and Danish Headache Center


Migraine affects 16% of the world population and is globally one of the most disabling disorders. It is a complex brain disorder characterized primarily by recurrent headache attacks. The signaling molecule serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) has for decades been thought to be important in the pathophysiology of migraine and the most effective class of abortive migraine drugs, the triptans, act on 5-HT receptors. However, the migraine specific actions of triptans and the exact role of serotonin are still unknown.

In this project we will use high-resolution positron emission tomography and specific radioligands to investigate the significance of serotonin in migraine. Two newly developed radioligands that are specific for the 5-HT1B and 5-HT4 receptor, respectively, will be applied. To investigate the level and distribution of serotonin in the migraine brain we will compare the binding of these ligands in episodic migraine patients with healthy controls. In addition, we will include chronic migraine patients to evaluate the relation between the level of serotonin in the brain and the frequency of migraine attacks. To investigate the changes in the serotonin level during a migraine attack and the effects of triptans on the central nervous system we will repeat the scans using the 5-HT1B specific ligand during induced migraine attacks and following treatment with sumatriptan.

The results from this study will shed light on the role of serotonin in the migraine brain and elucidate the migraine-specific action of triptans. This will improve our understanding of the migraine pathophysiology and, potentially, facilitate the development of more efficient treatment of migraine.