Developmental processes and brain imaging studies in Tourette syndrome

Elizabeth Gerard, Bradley S. Peterson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Objectives: It is often difficult to discern how findings of a neuroimaging study relate to the pathophysiology of an illness because imaging correlates may variously represent causes, consequences, or epiphenomena of the condition. The objective of this paper is to exemplify the complexities of interpreting neuroimaging data by reviewing anatomical and functional studies of Tourette syndrome (TS). Methods: Medline and Psychological Abstracts (PsycInfo) databases were searched for functional and anatomical neuroimaging studies of TS. Results: 9 anatomical and 21 functional cross-sectional imaging studies of TS contributed to this review. Anatomical studies comparing TS patients to age-matched controls have found that lenticular nucleus volumes are reduced in TS adults, while caudate nucleus volumes are reduced in both adults and children with TS. In a study of the cerebral cortex, prefrontal volumes in TS adults were smaller, but in TS children were larger than in those of age-matched controls. Complementing the anatomical findings of reduced volumes of the caudate nucleus in TS, functional studies have suggested that frontal-striatal projections play an important role in the regulation of tic symptoms. The majority of functional studies to date, however, have been limited to the study of adults. These functional studies have yielded variable results that have limited generalizability to the pathophysiology of children with TS. Conclusions: Although many of the findings in TS imaging may represent pathological causes of the disease, they may also be indicative of compensatory changes in the nervous system of TS subjects. Prospective studies of young children at risk will be necessary to help clarify the relationship between brain abnormalities and the course of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


  • Adaptation
  • Chronic illness
  • Neuroimaging
  • Plasticity
  • Tourette syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental processes and brain imaging studies in Tourette syndrome'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this