The Journal of Headache and Pain

"European Headache Federation" and of "Lifting The Burden - The Global Campaign against Headache"

The Journal of Headache and Pain Cover Image
Open Access

GABA and glutamate in migraine

  • Giovanni D’Andrea1Email author,
  • Franco Granella2,
  • Morena Cataldini3,
  • Flavio Verdelli1 and
  • Tiziana Balbi1
The Journal of Headache and PainOfficial Journal of the Italian Society for the Study of Headaches and the Italian Society of Pain Clinicians2:11


GABA and glutamic acid are the main inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters of central nervous system. Among other functions they modulate the pain threshold in the CNS. For this reason it has been hypothesized that anomalies of GABA and glutamate turn–over may play a role in migraine pathogenesis. In this review are discussed the evidences in favour of this hypothesis. A derangement of GABA may be an important factor in the occurrence of migraine attacks and their recurrence, whereas high level of glutamic acid may represent a biochemical marker of the neuronal hyperexcitability that may be the underlying cause of the aura. The pharmacological modulation of metabolism of both neurotransmitters is a promising approach to improve migraine therapy. In particular the studies presented here suggest that gabaergic drugs may be useful in migraine without aura, antiglutamatergic drugs are indicated to treat migraine with aura.

GABAGlutamic acidMigraine with and without auraMigraine pathogenesis