The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Jan 08, 2019
Non-trigeminal nociceptive innervation of the posterior dura: implications to occipital headache.
Current understanding of the origin of occipital headache falls short of distinguishing between cause and effect. Most preclinical studies involving trigeminovascular neurons sample neurons that are responsive to stimulation of dural areas in the anterior 2/3 of the cranium and the periorbital skin. Hypothesizing that occipital headache may involve activation of meningeal nociceptors that innervate the posterior 1/3 of the dura, we sought to map the origin and course of meningeal nociceptors that innervate the posterior dura overlying the cerebellum. Using AAV-GFP tracing and single-unit recording techniques in male rats, we found that neurons in C2-3 DRGs innervate the dura of the posterior fossa; that nearly half originate in DRG neurons containing CGRP and TRPV1; that nerve bundles traverse suboccipital muscles before entering the cranium through bony canals and large foramens; that central neurons receiving nociceptive information from the posterior dura are located in C2-4 spinal cord and that their cutaneous and muscle receptive fields are found around the ears, occipital skin and neck muscles; and that administration of inflammatory mediators to their dural receptive field, sensitize their responses to stimulation of the posterior dura, peri-occipital skin and neck muscles. These findings lend rationale for the common practice of attempting to alleviate migraine headaches by targeting the greater and lesser occipital nerves with anesthetics. The findings also raise the possibility that such procedures may be more beneficial for alleviating occipital than non-occipital headaches and that occipital migraines may be associated more closely with cerebellar abnormalities than in non-occipital migraines.Significant StatementOccipital headaches are common in both migraine and non-migraine headaches. Historically, two distinct scenarios have been proposed for such headaches; the first suggests that the headaches are caused by spasm or tension of scalp, shoulders and neck muscles inserted in the occipital region whereas the second suggests that these headaches are initiated by activation of meningeal nociceptors. The current study shows that the posterior dura overlying the cerebellum is innervated by cervicovascular neurons in C2 DRG whose axons reach the posterior dura through multiple intra- and extra-cranial pathways, and sensitization of central cervicovascular neurons from the posterior dura can result in hyperresponsiveness to stimulation of neck muscles. The findings suggest that the origin of occipital and frontal migraine may differ.