Entraining movement-related brain oscillations to suppress tics in Tourette syndrome
Jackson, Georgina M.
Jackson, Stephen R.
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Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by the occurrence of vocal and motor tics. Tics are involuntary, repetitive movements and vocalizations that occur in bouts, typically many times in a single day, and are often preceded by a strong urge-to-tic-referred to as a premonitory urge (PU). TS is associated with the following: dysfunction within cortical-striatal-thalamic-cortical (CSTC) brain circuits implicated in the selection of movements, impaired operation of GABA signaling within the striatum, and hyper-excitability of cortical sensorimotor regions that might contribute to the occurrence of tics. Non-invasive brain stimulation delivered to cortical motor areas can modulate cortical motor excitability, entrain brain oscillations, and reduce tics in TS. However, these techniques are not optimal for treatment outside of the clinic. We investigated whether rhythmic pulses of median nerve stimulation (MNS) could entrain brain oscillations linked to the suppression of movement and influence the initiation of tics in TS. We demonstrate that pulse trains of rhythmic MNS, delivered at 12 Hz, entrain sensorimotor mu-band oscillations, whereas pulse trains of arrhythmic MNS do not. Furthermore, we demonstrate that although rhythmic mu stimulation has statistically significant but small effects on the initiation of volitional movements and no discernable effect on performance of an attentionally demanding cognitive task, it nonetheless leads to a large reduction in tic frequency and tic intensity in individuals with TS. This approach has considerable potential, in our view, to be developed into a therapeutic device suitable for use outside of the clinic to suppress tics and PU in TS.