Impaired forward model updating in young adults with Tourette syndrome
Jackson, Georgina M.
Jackson, Stephen R.
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Current theories of motor control emphasize how the brain may use internal models of the body to ensure accurate planning and control of movements. One such internal model-a forward model-is thought to generate an estimate of the next motor state and/or the sensory consequences of an upcoming movement, thereby allowing movement errors to be monitored. In addition, forward models may provide a means by which to determine a sense of agency, i.e. the (conscious) sense of authorship and control over our actions. Tourette syndrome is a developmental neurological condition characterized by the occurrence of motor and phonic tics. The involuntary (or voluntary) nature of tics has been the subject of considerable debate, and it was recently argued that the presence of tics in Tourette syndrome could result in a blurring of any subjective boundary between voluntary and involuntary movements. In particular, it was proposed that the level of sensorimotor noise that accompanies tics may be particularly high in Tourette syndrome, and this may contribute to less efficient forward models used to determine agency. We investigated whether the internal monitoring of movements is impaired in individuals with Tourette syndrome, relative to a matched group of typically developing individuals, using a task that involved executing double-step aiming movements using a hand-held robot manipulandum. Participants were required on each trial to execute two movements in turn, each directed to a remembered target location without visual feedback. Importantly, we assumed that to perform accurately on the second (return) movement it would be necessary to update any forward model to take into account errors made during the first (outward) movement. Here we demonstrate that while the Tourette syndrome group were equally accurate, and no more variable, than the matched control group in executing aiming movements to the first (outward) target location, they were significantly less accurate, and exhibited greater movement variability, than controls when executing the second (return) movement. Furthermore, we show that for the return movement only, movement accuracy and movement variability were significantly predicted by the Tourette syndrome group's clinical severity scores. We interpret these findings as consistent with the view that individuals with Tourette syndrome may experience a reduction in the precision of the forward model estimates thought necessary for the accurate planning and control of movements.