‘Visualizing’ Tourette Syndrome

Sophisticated brain imaging reveals that several brain regions can become overactivated when people with Tourette Syndrome perform tasks related to memory.Neuroscience researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are studying the brains of patients with Tourette Syndrome (TS) to see whether they can use sophisticated imaging techniques to identify differences in the dopamine system of people with the tics that characterize TS. A team of researchers, led by Kevin J. Black, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, neurology and radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, is using PET imaging to see what the brain does in response to levodopa, a natural amino acid that has been used for many years to treat movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. With PET imaging, the researchers can measure the boost in the brain’s dopamine levels in response to the drug both in people with Tourette Syndrome and in those who do not have tics. By identifying differences, they hope to isolate the causes of tics and to help people with TS control or eliminate them.