Volume and shape of subcortical grey matter structures related to headache: a population-based imaging study in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study
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Background: The relationship between subcortical nuclei and headache is unclear. Most previous studies were conducted in small clinical migraine samples. In the present populationbased MRI study, we hypothesized that headache sufferers exhibit reduced volume and deformation of the nucleus accumbens compared to non-sufferers. Methods: 1006 participants (50-66 years) from the third Nord-Trøndelag Health Survey, were randomly selected to undergo a brain MRI at 1.5 T. Volume and shape of the subcortical nuclei (accumbens, amygdala, caudate, hippocampus, pallidum, putamen and thalamus) from T1 weighted 3D scans were obtained in FreeSurfer and FSL. The association with nine different questionnaire-based headache categories (e.g. migraine, tension-type headache) was evaluated using analysis of covariance corrected for age, sex, intracranial volume, blood pressure and alcohol consumption. Results: No effect of headache status on accumbens volume and shape was present, but small differences in volume of putamen and caudate, and in bilateral putaminal shape were found. A post hoc analysis showed that the larger caudate volume was strongly associated with increasing white matter hyperintensities. Conclusion: This population-based study did not confirm our hypothesis that headache sufferers have smaller volume and different shape of the accumbens compared to nonsufferers. In exploratory analyses only small differences in volume and shape of subcortical nuclei between headache sufferers and non-sufferers were found.