Medication Overuse Headache: Pathophysiological Insights from Structural and Functional Brain MRI Research

Todd J Schwedt, Catherine D. Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Background: Research imaging of brain structure and function has helped to elucidate the pathophysiology of medication overuse headache (MOH). Methods: This is a narrative review of imaging research studies that have investigated brain structural and functional alterations associated with MOH. Studies included in this review have investigated abnormal structure and function of pain processing regions in people with MOH, functional patterns that might predispose individuals to development of MOH, similarity of brain functional patterns in patients with MOH to those found in people with addiction, brain structure that could predict headache improvement following discontinuation of the overused medication, and changes in brain structure and function after discontinuation of medication overuse. Results and Conclusions: MOH is associated with atypical structure and function of brain regions responsible for pain processing as well as brain regions that are commonly implicated in addiction. Several studies have shown "normalization" of structure and function in pain processing regions following discontinuation of the overused medication and resolution of MOH. However, some of the abnormalities in regions also implicated in addiction tend to persist following discontinuation of the overused medication, suggesting that they are a brain trait that predisposes certain individuals to medication overuse and MOH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2017



  • Brain imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Medication overuse headache
  • Migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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