Pathophysiology of tic disorders

Mov Disord. 2015 Aug;30(9):1171-8. doi: 10.1002/mds.26304. Epub 2015 Jul 16.


Tics are the defining symptom of Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders (TDs); however, they form only a part of their overall symptoms. The recent surge of studies addressing the underlying pathophysiology of tics has revealed an intricate picture involving multiple brain areas and complex pathways. The myriad of pathophysiological findings stem, at least partially, from the multifaceted properties of tics and the disorders that express them. Distinct brain pathways mediate the expression of tics, whereas others are involved in the generation of the premonitory urge, associated comorbidities, and other changes in brain state. Expression of these symptoms is controlled by additional networks underlying voluntary suppression by the patient or those reflecting overall behavioral state. This review aims to simplify the complex picture of tic pathophysiology by dividing it into these key components based on converging data from human and animal model studies. Thus, involvement of the corticobasal ganglia pathway and its interaction with motor, sensory, limbic, and executive networks in each of the components as well as their control by different neuromodulators is described. This division enables a focused definition of the neuronal systems involved in each of these processes and allows a better understanding of the pathophysiology of TDs as a whole.

Keywords: Tourette's syndrome; animal model; basal ganglia; neurophysiology; tics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Tic Disorders / pathology
  • Tic Disorders / physiopathology*