Classifying migraine using PET compressive big data analytics of brain’s μ -opioid and D2/D3 dopamine neurotransmission
Introduction: Migraine is a common and debilitating pain disorder associated with dysfunction of the central nervous system. Advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have reported relevant pathophysiologic states in migraine. However, its molecular mechanistic processes are still poorly understood in vivo . This study examined migraine patients with a novel machine learning (ML) method based on their central μ -opioid and dopamine D2/D3 profiles, the most critical neurotransmitters in the brain for pain perception and its cognitive-motivational interface. Methods: We employed compressive Big Data Analytics (CBDA) to identify migraineurs and healthy controls (HC) in a large positron emission tomography (PET) dataset. 198 PET volumes were obtained from 38 migraineurs and 23 HC during rest and thermal pain challenge. 61 subjects were scanned with the selective μ -opioid receptor (μOR) radiotracer [ 11 C]Carfentanil, and 22 with the selective dopamine D2/D3 receptor (DOR) radiotracer [ 11 C]Raclopride. PET scans were recast into a 1D array of 510,340 voxels with spatial and intensity filtering of non-displaceable binding potential (BP ND ), representing the receptor availability level. We then performed data reduction and CBDA to power rank the predictive brain voxels. Results: CBDA classified migraineurs from HC with accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity above 90% for whole-brain and region-of-interest (ROI) analyses. The most predictive ROIs for μOR were the insula (anterior), thalamus (pulvinar, medial-dorsal, and ventral lateral/posterior nuclei), and the putamen. The latter, putamen (anterior), was also the most predictive for migraine regarding DOR D2/D3 BP ND levels. Discussion: CBDA of endogenous μ -opioid and D2/D3 dopamine dysfunctions in the brain can accurately identify a migraine patient based on their receptor availability across key sensory, motor, and motivational processing regions. Our ML-based findings in the migraineur’s brain neurotransmission partly explain the severe impact of migraine suffering and associated neuropsychiatric comorbidities.