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Medical News & Perspectives
August 25, 2004

Scientists Use Neuroimaging, Genetic Studies to Probe Biology of Tourette Syndrome

JAMA. 2004;292(8):909-911. doi:10.1001/jama.292.8.909

Cleveland—In a darkened conference hall, Kirk Frey, MD, PhD, nodded toward the screen showing a slide listing all the published studies on neurochemical changes in the brain related to Tourette syndrome (TS). The list did not take long to read—it contained just 5 citations.

"This is the literature in its entirety," said Frey, director of nuclear medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor.

Despite being named and discovered more than a century ago by French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette, the disorder, characterized by verbal and motor tics, remains vastly understudied and underdiagnosed. Getting at the root cause of TS has been a tough proposition for researchers. They have not been able to glean much from autopsy and postmortem data because those studies have included small numbers of individuals, and the neurochemical changes reported have been subtle. Those data also are confounded by the fact that they often come from patients who had more than one neurobehavioral diagnosis and took medications that could cause changes in the brain.