Deep brain stimulation in Tourette's syndrome: evidence to date

Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2019 Apr 29:15:1061-1075. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S139368. eCollection 2019.


Tourette's syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that comprises vocal and motor tics associated with a high frequency of psychiatric comorbidities, which has an important impact on quality of life. The onset is mainly in childhood and the symptoms can either fade away or require pharmacological therapies associated with cognitive-behavior therapies. In rare cases, patients experience severe and disabling symptoms refractory to conventional treatments. In these cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can be considered as an interesting and effective option for symptomatic control. DBS has been studied in numerous trials as a therapy for movement disorders, and currently positive data supports that DBS is partially effective in reducing the motor and non-motor symptoms of TS. The average response, mostly from case series and prospective cohorts and only a few controlled studies, is around 40% improvement on tic severity scales. The ventromedial thalamus has been the preferred target, but more recently the globus pallidus internus has also gained some notoriety. The mechanism by which DBS is effective on tics and other symptoms in TS is not yet understood. As refractory TS is not common, even reference centers have difficulties in performing large controlled trials. However, studies that reproduce the current results in larger and multicenter randomized controlled trials to improve our knowledge so as to support the best target and stimulation settings are still lacking. This article will discuss the selection of the candidates, DBS targets and mechanisms on TS, and clinical evidence to date reviewing current literature about the use of DBS in the treatment of TS.

Keywords: DBS; Tourette’s syndrome; deep brain stimulation; tics.

Publication types

  • Review