Neurophysiological Recordings from the Centromedian Parafascicular Nuclei in Patients with Tourette Syndrome Undergoing Deep Brain Stimulation

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
University of Milan Medical School Italy
Investigators Name
Priori, Alberto, MD, PhD

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is a new, highly experimental treatment for severely affected, medication-resistant people with Tourette Syndrome (TS). This procedure involves neurosurgical implantation of a small electrode in deep brain structures such as the centromedian parafascicular nucleus of the thalamus. The electrode is connected to a small stimulator implanted under the skin, near the collarbone. At this point, preliminary results of DBS treatment for TS are somewhat encouraging. DBS electrodes can also be used to record electrical brain activity. These data provide us with a unique opportunity to monitor that part of the brain thought to be altered in TS. Our research will focus on recording functional abnormalities in the neurons of the thalamus of people who have been implanted with DBS electrodes. First we will record the activity of individual neurons during surgery, while the patient is under general anaesthesia. We will then record neuronal activity 48 hours after surgery when the person is awake and free to move. This will enable us, for the first time, to study neuron activity at the time that the person exhibits voluntary or involuntary (tic) movements. This novel approach should provide clues for improved understanding of the functional abnormalities in the basal ganglia and thalamus – brain regions believed to be responsible for causing tics. Similar studies have provided important new knowledge and advances in the pathophysiology of other movement disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Dystonia. We hypothesize that our research work will lead to a better understanding of the abnormal neuronal mechanisms responsible for causing tics, and will add significantly to our knowledge about the DBS procedure for TS treatment. Alberto Priori, M.D., Ph.D., University of Milan Medical School Milan, Italy Mauro Porta, M.D., San Marco Hospital of Zingonia Bergamo, Italy Guglielmo Foffani, Ph.D., Drexel University Philadelphia, PA Domenico Servello, M.D., Hospital of Galeazzi Milan, Italy Award: $53,000 Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 2007-2008