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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex abnormalities in Tourette Syndrome: evidence from voxel-based morphometry and magnetization transfer imaging

Kirsten R Müller-Vahl15*, Jörn Kaufmann3, Julian Grosskreutz4, Reinhard Dengler25, Hinderk M Emrich15 and Thomas Peschel15

Author affiliations

1 Clinic of Psychiatry, Socialpsychiatry and Psychotherapy, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

2 Department of Neurology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

3 Department of Neurology II, Center for Advanced Imaging (CAI), Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany

4 Department of Neurology, University of Jena, Jena, Germany

5 Center for Systems Neurosciences (ZSN), Hannover, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2009, 10:47  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-47

Published: 12 May 2009

Abstract

Background

Pathophysiological evidence suggests an involvement of fronto-striatal circuits in Tourette syndrome (TS). To identify TS related abnormalities in gray and white matter we used optimized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and magnetization transfer imaging (MTI) which are more sensitive to tissue alterations than conventional MRI and provide a quantitative measure of macrostructural integrity.

Methods

Volumetric high-resolution anatomical T1-weighted MRI and MTI were acquired in 19 adult, unmedicated male TS patients without co-morbidities and 20 age- and sex-matched controls on a 1.5 Tesla neuro-optimized GE scanner. Images were pre-processed and analyzed using an optimized version of VBM in SPM2.

Results

Using VBM, TS patients showed significant decreases in gray matter volumes in prefrontal areas, the anterior cingulate gyrus, sensorimotor areas, left caudate nucleus and left postcentral gyrus. Decreases in white matter volumes were detected in the right inferior frontal gyrus, the left superior frontal gyrus and the anterior corpus callosum. Increases were found in the left middle frontal gyrus and left sensorimotor areas. In MTI, white matter reductions were seen in the right medial frontal gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus bilaterally and the right cingulate gyrus. Tic severity was negatively correlated with orbitofrontal structures, the right cingulate gyrus and parts of the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex bilaterally.

Conclusion

Our MRI in vivo neuropathological findings using two sensitive and unbiased techniques support the hypothesis that alterations in frontostriatal circuitries underlie TS pathology. We suggest that anomalous frontal lobe association and projection fiber bundles cause disinhibition of the cingulate gyrus and abnormal basal ganglia function.