2023 Young Investigator Awardees

The Tourette Association of America (TAA) is proud to announce the 2023 recipients of the Young Investigator Award. Each awardee will receive a total of $150,000 across two years to support their groundbreaking work. Recognized for their exceptional commitment to understanding and advancing research in Tourette Syndrome, these individuals embody the spirit of innovation and the dedication required to foster meaningful advancements in the field.

“The Young Investigator Award is an opportunity to find and support researchers who are new to research but incredibly passionate about Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders,” said Dr. Joshua Nadeau, Vice President of Medical and Scientific Programs at the TAA. “Over the years that we’ve offered the Award, we’ve seen that our recipients often grow into the giants of our field by answering the most pressing questions.”

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The 2023 Awardees and Their Respective Projects

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Cheng Jiang, PhD
Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry, Yale University

Stress early in childhood development has been linked to risk of TS and to the severity of tics. TS has a marked male bias, with the male-to-female ratio being approximately 4:1. Observations suggest that early life stress (ELS) in mice produces male-specific abnormalities that are similar to those observed in humans with TS. Dr. Jiang’s study will use the Four Core Genotypes mouse model to tease apart the contributions from chromosomal and hormonal sex to behavioral and brain changes. This research will deepen our understanding of how environmental and sexual differences are related to TS, paving the way for the development of sex-specific intervention and prevention strategies.

Tyne Miller-Fleming, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Vanderbilt University
This project aims to improve the scientific understanding of how genetics contributes to Tourette Syndrome. One major limitation in Tourette Syndrome research is the small number of patients with Tic Disorders that volunteer for research studies. To address this, Dr. Miller-Fleming’s study will use a method for calculating a person’s risk of Tic Disorders via electronic medical records to identify patterns of medical conditions that commonly occur with a Tic Disorder diagnosis. These scores can then be used to identify individuals from large collections of biological samples that have these same clinical patterns to increase the number of people included in genetic studies for Tic Disorders.
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Chengshi Shiu, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California Los Angeles
This study aims to understand how stigma affects the mental health of adults with Tourette Syndrome. While some children with TS may experience a decrease in tic symptoms when maturing into adulthood, a significant proportion continues to suffer from moderate to severe symptoms. Because of social stigma surrounding tic symptoms, adults with TS often face discrimination in their daily lives. However, research on the link between these adults’ stigma experiences and their mental health is limited. Therefore, Dr. Shiu’s study will develop a tool to measure adults with TS’s stigma experiences and follow 250 individuals for 12 months. The long-term goal is to find ways to support adults with TS in managing the challenges of stigma and promoting their mental health.
Brianna Wellen, PhD
Postdoctoral Associate, University of Minnesota
Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) is a treatment for those living with Tic Disorders that focused on increasing voluntary control for tics that patients find bothersome or distressing. Although CBIT is one of the most effective treatments for Tic Disorders, it only works for about half of patients. Dr. Wellen’s study will examine fine-grained changes in tic controllability throughout CBIT. She will collect information about tics before, during, and after treatment for 80 participants, and map how changes in tic controllability are associated with treatment success.

To learn more about the Young Investigator Award, click here.

To learn more about the TAA’s Research & Medical information, click here.