Open Access Open Badges Research article

Fine motor skills in adult Tourette patients are task-dependent

Irene Neuner1246*, Jorge Arrubla2, Corinna Ehlen1, Hildegard Janouschek1, Carlos Nordt3, Bruno Fimm5, Frank Schneider14, N Jon Shah245 and Wolfram Kawohl3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen 52074, Germany

2 Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine - 4, Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, Juelich 52425, Germany

3 Department of General and Social Psychiatry, University of Zurich, Zurich, 8004, Switzerland

4 JARA – Translational Brain Medicine, Aachen, Germany

5 Department of Neurology, Section Neuropsychology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, 52074, Germany

6 Department of Psychiatry Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstrasse 30, Aachen, 52074, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2012, 12:120  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-12-120

Published: 11 October 2012



Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by motor and phonic tics. Deficient motor inhibition underlying tics is one of the main hypotheses in its pathophysiology. Therefore the question arises whether this supposed deficient motor inhibition affects also voluntary movements. Despite severe motor tics, different personalities who suffer from Tourette perform successfully as neurosurgeon, pilot or professional basketball player.


For the investigation of fine motor skills we conducted a motor performance test battery in an adult Tourette sample and an age matched group of healthy controls.


The Tourette patients showed a significant lower performance in the categories steadiness of both hands and aiming of the right hand in comparison to the healthy controls. A comparison of patients’ subgroup without comorbidities or medication and healthy controls revealed a significant difference in the category steadiness of the right hand.


Our results show that steadiness and visuomotor integration of fine motor skills are altered in our adult sample but not precision and speed of movements. This alteration pattern might be the clinical vignette of complex adaptations in the excitability of the motor system on the basis of altered cortical and subcortical components. The structurally and functionally altered neuronal components could encompass orbitofrontal, ventrolateral prefrontal and parietal cortices, the anterior cingulate, amygdala, primary motor and sensorimotor areas including altered corticospinal projections, the corpus callosum and the basal ganglia.