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Pre-movement gating of somatosensory evoked potentials in Tourette syndrome



      Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics. Simple tics are purposeless involuntary movements that spontaneously resolve during middle adolescence. Complex tics appear to be semi-voluntary movements that may become intractable when associated with obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). Sensory tics or urges preceded by tics suggest sensorimotor processing impairment in TS. We aimed to clarify its pathophysiology by exploring the pre-movement gating (attenuation) of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs).


      We examined 42 patients (aged 9–48 years), 4 of whom underwent follow-up assessment, along with 19 healthy controls. We defined patients with only simple tics as TS-S and patients with complex tics as TS-C. Pre-movement gating of SEPs was assessed using a previously described method. Frontal N30 (FrN30) amplitudes were compared between pre-movement and resting states. The gating ratio of pre-movement/resting amplitude of the FrN30 component was assessed: the larger the ratio, the less the gating.


      The gating ratio for TS-C patients was larger than that of TS-S patients and healthy controls, but a statistical difference between TS-S and TS-C appeared after 15 years and over (p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in the gating ratio between TS-S patients and healthy controls. The gating ratio was related to the severity of OCD (p < 0.05).


      Sensorimotor processing was preserved for simple tics but impaired in complex tics, specifically after middle adolescence. Our study supports an age-dependent dysfunction of both motor and non-motor cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical circuits in complex tics. SEP gating seems promising as a tool for assessing age-dependent sensorimotor disintegration in TS.


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