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Effects of sildenafil and calcitonin gene-related peptide on brainstem glutamate levels: a pharmacological proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy study at 3.0 T

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BACKGROUND: Studies involving human pharmacological migraine models have predominantly focused on the vasoactive effects of headache-inducing drugs, including sildenafil and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). However, the role of possible glutamate level changes in the brainstem and thalamus is of emerging interest in the field of migraine research bringing forth the need for a novel, validated method to study the biochemical effects in these areas.

METHODS: We applied an optimized in vivo human pharmacological proton (1H) magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) protocol (PRESS, repetition time 3000 ms, echo time 37.6-38.3 ms) at 3.0 T in combination with sildenafil and CGRP in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, double-dummy, three-way cross-over design. Seventeen healthy participants were scanned with the 1H-MRS protocol at baseline and twice (at 40 min and 140 min) after drug administration to investigate the sildenafil- and CGRP-induced glutamate changes in both brainstem and thalamus.

RESULTS: The glutamate levels increased transiently in the brainstem at 40-70 min after sildenafil administration compared to placebo (5.6%, P = 0.039). We found no sildenafil-induced glutamate changes in the thalamus, and no CGRP-induced glutamate changes in the brainstem or thalamus compared to placebo. Both sildenafil and CGRP induced headache in 53%-62% of participants. We found no interaction in the glutamate levels in the brainstem or thalamus between participants who developed sildenafil and/or CGRP-induced headache as compared to participants who did not.

CONCLUSIONS: The transient sildenafil-induced glutamate change in the brainstem possibly reflects increased excitability of the brainstem neurons. CGRP did not induce brainstem or thalamic glutamate changes, suggesting that it rather exerts its headache-inducing effects on the peripheral trigeminal pain pathways.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Volume19
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)44
Number of pages11
ISSN1129-2369
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

ID: 54652677