The TAA Neuroimaging consortium (TANIC) was established in 2009 with a TAA grant of $500,000 that was a gift from the Ahmanson Foundation. The TANIC is a multi-site collaborative project led by Bradley Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D. and Kevin Black, M.D. at the Washington University School of Medicine (St. Louis, MO). The 4 other participating research sites in the consortium are:
- New York University (New York, NY) under the direction of F. Xavier Castellanos, M.D., Michael Milham, M.D., Ph.D., and Adriana Di Martino, M.D.
- Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute (Baltimore, MD) under the direction of Harvey Singer M.D. and Steward Mostofsky, M.D.
- The University of California, Los Angeles (LA) under the direction of Paul Thompson, Ph.D. and Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D.; John C. Piacentini, Ph.D.
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York, NY) under the direction of Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S.
The TANIC aims to use MRI and other imaging techniques to determine the brain changes underlying tics in individuals with TS and other Tic disorders. Researchers from the aforementioned institutions shared MRI scans from hundreds of children with or without a chronic tic disorder and the first report from the TANIC examined brain structure in over 200 children 1. White matter volume was lower in TS in the orbital and medial prefrontal cortex, while gray matter volume was increased in TS in the hypothalamus and posterior thalamus. These brain regions are involved in various processes, including awareness of internal body sensations, which is important given the occurrence of premonitory sensations that precede tics in many patients. Further research using MRI and other methods will clarify exactly how and when these abnormalities develop in TS.
Research by the neuroimaging consortium has opened new avenues for continued research to understand the causes of tics, and has also revealed new brain targets that will be exploited in the future to develop novel treatments for TS.
1Greene DJ, Williams Iii AC, Koller JM, Schlaggar BL, Black KJ1. Brain structure in pediatric Tourette syndrome. (2016) Mol Psychiatry. [Epub ahead of print].