The New Tics study: A Novel Approach to Pathophysiology and Cause of Tic Disorders

J Psychiatr Brain Sci. 2020;5:e200012. doi: 10.20900/jpbs.20200012. Epub 2020 May 27.


We report on the ongoing project "The New Tics Study: A Novel Approach to Pathophysiology and Cause of Tic Disorders," describing the work completed to date, ongoing studies and long-term goals. The overall goals of this research are to study the pathophysiology of Provisional Tic Disorder, and to study tic remission (or improvement) in a prospective fashion. Preliminary data collection for the project began almost 10 years ago. The current study is nearing completion of its third year, and has already reported several novel and important results. First, surprisingly, at least 90% of children who had experienced tics for only a mean of 3 months still had tics at the 12-month anniversary of their first tic, though in some cases tics were seen only with remote video observation of the child sitting alone. Thus almost all of them now had a DSM-5 diagnosis of Tourette's Disorder or Persistent (Chronic) Tic Disorder. Baseline clinical features that predicted 12-month outcome included tic severity, subsyndromal autism spectrum symptoms, an anxiety disorder, and a history of 3 or more phonic tics. Second, we found that poorer tic suppression ability when immediately rewarded for suppression predicted greater tic severity at follow-up. Third, striatal volumes did not predict outcome as hypothesized, but a larger hippocampus at baseline predicted worse severity at follow-up. Enrollment and data collection continue, including functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) imaging, and additional analyses are planned once the full sample is enrolled.

Keywords: MRI; Provisional Tic Disorder; Tourette syndrome; anxiety; hippocampus; inhibition (psychology); prognosis; tic disorders; tic suppression.