Brain structure in pediatric Tourette syndrome

Mol Psychiatry. 2017 Jul;22(7):972-980. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.194. Epub 2016 Oct 25.


Previous studies of brain structure in Tourette syndrome (TS) have produced mixed results, and most had modest sample sizes. In the present multicenter study, we used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare 103 children and adolescents with TS to a well-matched group of 103 children without tics. We applied voxel-based morphometry methods to test gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volume differences between diagnostic groups, accounting for MRI scanner and sequence, age, sex and total GM+WM volume. The TS group demonstrated lower WM volume bilaterally in orbital and medial prefrontal cortex, and greater GM volume in posterior thalamus, hypothalamus and midbrain. These results demonstrate evidence for abnormal brain structure in children and youth with TS, consistent with and extending previous findings, and they point to new target regions and avenues of study in TS. For example, as orbital cortex is reciprocally connected with hypothalamus, structural abnormalities in these regions may relate to abnormal decision making, reinforcement learning or somatic processing in TS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gray Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • Gray Matter / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / pathology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / pathology
  • Tourette Syndrome / pathology*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology