Is There a Global or a Specific Frontal Lobe Deficit in Tourette Syndrome?

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
Institute of Psychiatry England
Investigators Name
Baron-Cohen, Simon, MD

Our previous work has suggested that children with Tourette Syndrome might have abnormalities in one of the mechanisms that underlies self-control. Two such mechanisms can be distinguished: the capacity for inhibition, and the capacity for “editing intentions.” The former appears to develop normally, whereas the latter appears to be delayed or dysfunctional in comparison to children of the same age who do not have Tourette Syndrome. The capacity for editing intentions is all about being able to select from a range of possible courses of action prior to performing the action itself. So, when several courses of action are equally possible, given a particular situation, we typically need to select just one actual action to perform, and “edit” the rest. Since our earlier studies show that children with Tourette Syndrome find intention-editing difficult, it seems plausible that this psychological difficulty might underlie the core symptoms they show: vocal tics, motor tics and unwanted intrusive thoughts. In our future research, now made possible thanks to funding from the TSA, we wish to explore how specific this problem is. Is the difficulty narrowly restricted to editing intentions, or might there be problems in other mechanisms involved in action-control, such as in-attention and planning? These latter mechanisms are typically thought of as the domain of the frontal lobes of the brain. Using standard psychological tests we will be testing both intention editing and these frontal lobe mechanisms. Such research will shed light on the psychological level of the condition, and may then suggest other methods for psychological treatments. Simon Baron-Cohen, M.D. Institute of Psychiatry, London, England Award $8,000 Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 1994