Volitional Control of action in Young People with Tourette Syndrome

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
University of Nottingham UK
Investigators Name
Jackson, Georgina, PhD

Relatively little is known about the mechanisms involved in the suppression of tics. While tics are clearly unwanted movements, they are subject to some degree of volitional control in so far as their onset can sometimes be delayed. The ability to suppress tics improves throughout childhood. As the ability to suppress tics is increasing, brain areas involved in cognitive control are also developing, and behavior becomes less reflexive and more goal-directed. In this study, we will make use of behavioral and brain imaging techniques to explore how volitional control (including tic suppression) is achieved in young people with TS. Over the past two years we have been developing and testing behavioral paradigms involving volitional control with a small group of young people with TS (age 8-17 years). These assessments have involved many hours of testing and have produced several very exciting findings. For instance, a receent study has shown that individuals with TS show more efficient performance than age-matched participants (who do not have TS), on tasks that require high levels of cognitive control. One possible explanation for this finding is that, as a consequence of the need to prevent unwanted movements, actions are more self-regulated in an individual with TS. In the current study we will use electrophysiological recording techniques (ERP and EEG) to explore what is happening when individuals with TS perform control tasks. We will also investigate, using MRI, whether there are structural changes in the brain associated with our measures of tic suppression and performance on control tasks. Since the ability to control our actions depends upon the integrity of the frontal cortex, the size of this structure may be related to the ability to suppress tics. We may also see changes in the white matter Georgina M. Jackson, Ph.D. University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom Award: $72,006 This study is being underwritten through a generous donation by Ralph Ochsman Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 2006-2007