Functional Connectivity in Tourette Syndrome: A Pilot Study

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
New York University
Investigators Name
Castellanos, F. Xavier, MD

Brain imaging studies of Tourette Syndrome (TS) have helped us to understand that the disorder involves certain specific brain structures that regulate motor, emotional, and cognitive functions. However, these circuits are involved in many neuropsychiatric disorders, several of which are also intimately connected to TS. One of the major advances in brain imaging was brought on by the ability to detect slight regional differences in blood flow (called functional MRI or fMRI). Studies using fMRI typically compare blood flow in certain key regions under two contrasting conditions. Regions that show consistent differences in such comparisons are likely to be involved in one condition but not in the other. Much progress in understanding brain functions has been made in this way, but designing useful contrasting conditions is challenging. For example, a specific task may be too easy for some and too hard for others, especially when participants differ in age or maturational level. Over the past several years, neuroimaging studieshave focused on obtaining detailed blood flow scans without a specific task – i.e., during rest. In our lab, we ask children, adolescents, or adults to just “relax” for about six minutes while they are scanned. During those six minutes, every two seconds we obtain a snapshot of blood flow in about 100,000 places in their brain. When we reconstruct these data, striking patterns of coherence can be observed. These patterns tell us about areas (i.e. circuits) of the brain that work together and about the differences that correspond to certain neuropsychiatric disorders. By comparing blood flow scans in a group of 30 children and adolescents with TS,(many of whom also have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)), to a group of the same age with ADHD only, and another group of children without any condition, we hope to learn more about the specific differences that correspond to having TS. Because we already have another grant that will support the scans in ADHD and unaffected children, support from the TSA will allow us to scan the children/adolescents with TS. We plan to complete this study in one year, and with our preliminary findings in hand propose larger and more definitive studies to the NIH. In this way, we anticipate learning more about the brain systems involved in TS, so that we can eventually use this information to better predict treatment outcomes and help determine who needs treatment and what kind. F. Xavier Castellanos, M.D., New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S., New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY Gholson Lyon, M.D., Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY Michael P. Milham, M.D., Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY Bharat B. Biswal, Ph.D., Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research, Orangeburg, NY Award: $75,000 This Award is partially funded by The Lupin Foundation Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 2008-2009