Multispectral brain morphometry in Tourette syndrome persisting into adulthood
A. E Cavanna,
M. M Robertson,
H. D Critchley
R. S. Frackowiak
Tourette syndrome is a childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorder with a high prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity and obsessive-compulsive disorder co-morbidities. Structural changes have been found in frontal cortex and striatum in children and adolescents. A limited number of morphometric studies in Tourette syndrome persisting into adulthood suggest ongoing structural alterations affecting frontostriatal circuits. Using cortical thickness estimation and voxel-based analysis of T1- and diffusion-weighted structural magnetic resonance images, we examined 40 adults with Tourette syndrome in comparison with 40 age- and gender-matched healthy controls. Patients with Tourette syndrome showed relative grey matter volume reduction in orbitofrontal, anterior cingulate and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices bilaterally. Cortical thinning extended into the limbic mesial temporal lobe. The grey matter changes were modulated additionally by the presence of co-morbidities and symptom severity. Prefrontal cortical thickness reduction correlated negatively with tic severity, while volume increase in primary somatosensory cortex depended on the intensity of premonitory sensations. Orbitofrontal cortex volume changes were further associated with abnormal water diffusivity within grey matter. White matter analysis revealed changes in fibre coherence in patients with Tourette syndrome within anterior parts of the corpus callosum. The severity of motor tics and premonitory urges had an impact on the integrity of tracts corresponding to cortico-cortical and cortico-subcortical connections. Our results provide empirical support for a patho-aetiological model of Tourette syndrome based on developmental abnormalities, with perturbation of compensatory systems marking persistence of symptoms into adulthood. We interpret the symptom severity related grey matter volume increase in distinct functional brain areas as evidence of ongoing structural plasticity. The convergence of evidence from volume and water diffusivity imaging strengthens the validity of our findings and attests to the value of a novel multimodal combination of volume and cortical thickness estimations that provides unique and complementary information by exploiting their differential sensitivity to structural change.