The Journal of Headache and Pain

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

The Journal of Headache and Pain Cover Image

Volume 16 Supplement 1

1st Joint ANIRCEF-SISC Congress

Open Access

P062. Sensory modalities during dreams in migraine

  • Luca Giani1Email author,
  • Carlo Lovati1,
  • Roberta Casazza1 and
  • Claudio Mariani1
The Journal of Headache and Pain201516(Suppl 1):A63

Published: 28 September 2015


MigraineFisher Exact TestSensory ModalityMigraine PatientMigraine With Aura


Migraine is a primary headache characterized by recurrent episodes of unilateral head pain, associated to vegetative symptoms (nausea) and alterations in sensory experiences: photophobia and phonophobia are diagnostic criteria, osmophobia, although not diagnostic, seems to be very specific[1]. Dream is a universal mental activity present during sleep, characterized by hallucinatory production. Subjects may recall experiences in different sensory modalities, such as visual, auditory, olfactory and gustatory sensations[2]. In a previous study, through an anamnestic questionnaire, we found that migraine patients were more prone than non-migraineurs to recall gustatory and olfactory dreams[3]. We designed a study aiming to eliminate the possible bias due to the retrospective analysis.

Materials and methods

We enrolled 104 subjects (69 F, 35 M; mean age 35.39±14.10; range 20-76), of which 59 controls not suffering from any kind of primary headache (30 F; mean age 32.75±13.29; range 20-76), 17 migraine with aura (MA, 17 F; mean age 40.53±12.27; range 24-59), 28 migraine without aura (MO, 22 F; mean age 37.86±15.87; range 23-70). Headache diagnosis was made according to the ICHD-III beta criteria. All patients filled in an ad hoc questionnaire each morning upon awakening for 30 consecutive days. The questionnaire asked the patients if they remembered dreaming in the past night, and investigated the presence of different sensory modalities (i.e., presence of color, black and white, acoustic, olfactory/gustatory sensations). Olfactory and gustatory experiences were included in the same question, as subjects of a previous study reported difficulty in discriminating between these two sensory modalities. We examined the prevalence of subjects reporting each sensory experience at least once in 30 days, and compared different diagnostic groups using Chi square test or Fisher exact test when appropriate.


There was no differences between migraineurs and controls about the presence of color (93.3% vs 94.9%), black and white (37.8% vs 33.9%), and auditory (97.8% vs 86.4%) experiences. More migraineurs than controls reported dreaming with olfactory/gustatory (46.7% vs 25.4%, p 0.037 at Fisher exact test) sensations at least once. More MO patients reported olfactory/gustatory sensations with respect to MA patients and controls (respectively 57.1% vs 29.4% vs 25.4%, p 0.013) (figure 1).
Figure 1

Proportion of subjects reporting olfactory/gustatory sensations. Legend: MA, migraine with aura; MO, migraine without aura.


With this study, even eliminating the possible bias of retrospective analysis, we confirmed that migraine subjects experience gustatory and olfactory sensations during dreams more frequently than subjects without migraine. These results suggest a peculiar functioning of brain structures such as the amygdala and the hypothalamus in the migraine brain.

Written informed consent to publication was obtained from the patient(s).

Authors’ Affiliations

UO Neurologia, AO L. Sacco, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy


  1. Baldacci F, et al: Clinical features associated with ictal osmophobia in migraine. Neurol Sci. 2015, 36 (1): 43-6. 10.1007/s10072-014-1903-5.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Zadra AL, et al: Prevalence of auditory, olfactory, and gustatory experiences in home dreams. Percept Mot Skills. 1998, 87 (3 Pt 1): 819-26.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Lovati C, et al: Is the brain of migraineurs “different” even in dreams?. Neurol Sci. 2014, 35 (Suppl 1): 167-9.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar


© Giani et al. 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.