Relating excitatory and inhibitory neurochemicals to visual perception: A magnetic resonance study of occipital cortex between migraine events

Yu Man Chan, Kabilan Pitchaimuthu, Qi-Zhu Wu, Olivia L. Carter, Gary F. Egan, David R. Badcock, Allison M. McKendrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Certain perceptual measures have been proposed as indirect assays of brain neurochemical status in people with migraine. One such measure is binocular rivalry, however, previous studies have not measured rivalry characteristics and brain neurochemistry together in people with migraine. This study compared spectroscopy-measured levels of GABA and Glx (glutamine and glutamate complex) in visual cortex between 16 people with migraine and 16 non-headache controls, and assessed whether the concentration of these neurochemicals explains, at least partially, inter-individual variability in binocular rivalry perceptual measures. Mean Glx level was significantly reduced in migraineurs relative to controls, whereas mean occipital GABA levels were similar between groups. Neither GABA levels, nor Glx levels correlated with rivalry percept duration. Our results thus suggest that the previously suggested relationship between rivalry percept duration and GABAergic inhibitory neurotransmitter concentration in visual cortex is not strong enough to enable rivalry percept duration to be reliably assumed to be a surrogate for GABA concentration, at least in the context of healthy individuals and those that experience migraine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0208666
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019


  • migraine
  • gamma-aminobutyric acid
  • vision
  • perception
  • sensory perception
  • visual cortex
  • central nervous system
  • occipital lobe

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