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Open Access Case control study

Hypervigilance or avoidance of trigger related cues in migraineurs? - A case-control study using the emotional stroop task

Anne-Katrin Puschmann12* and Claudia Sommer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neurology, University of Wuerzburg, Josef-Schneider-Str. 11, 97080 Wuerzburg, Germany

2 Research Training Group „Emotions", Department of Psychology I, University of Wuerzburg, Marcusstr. 9-11, 97074 Wuerzburg, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2011, 11:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-11-141

Published: 5 November 2011



"Negative affect" is one of the major migraine triggers. The aim of the study was to assess attentional biases for negative affective stimuli that might be related to migraine triggers in migraine patients with either few or frequent migraine and healthy controls.


Thirty-three subjects with frequent migraine (FM) or with less frequent episodic migraine, and 20 healthy controls conducted two emotional Stroop tasks in the interictal period. In task 1, general affective words and in task 2, pictures of affective faces (angry, neutral, happy) were used. For each task we calculated two emotional Stroop indices. Groups were compared using one-way ANOVAs.


The expected attentional bias in migraine patients was not found. However, in task 2 the controls showed a significant attentional bias to negative faces, whereas the FM group showed indices near zero. Thus, the FM group responded faster to negative than to positive stimuli. The difference between the groups was statistically significant.


The findings in the FM group may reflect a learned avoidance mechanism away from affective migraine triggers.