Using MRIs, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified areas in the brains of children with Tourettes syndrome that appear markedly different from the same areas in the brains of children who dont have the neuropsychiatric disorder.
RESEARCHERS AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS HAVE IDENTIFIED A FEW AREAS IN THE BRAINS OF CHILDREN WITH TOURETTES SYNDROME THAT APPEAR TO BE DIFFERENT FROM THE SAME AREAS IN THE BRAINS OF KIDS WHO DONT HAVE THE NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER. AND THE REGIONS THAT THEY IDENTIFIED ARE ONES WHERE THEY HADNT REALLY EXPECTED TO SEE DIFFERENCES. JIM DRYDEN HAS THE STORY
THE RESEARCHERS USED MAGNIETIC RESONANCE IMAGING IN THE LARGEST STUDY OF ITS KIND EVER DONE ON PATIENTS WITH TOURETTES SYNDROME. IT INVOLVED RESEARCH TEAMS AT SEVERAL CENTERS AROUND THE UNITED STATES. PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR KEVIN BLACK, A PSYCHIATRIST AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE IN ST. LOUIS, SAYS THE RESEARCHERS ANALYZED MRI BRAIN SCANS CONDUCTED ON 103 KIDS WHO HAD TICS RELATED TO TOURETTES SYNDROME AND ANOTHER 103 KIDS OF THE SAME AGE AND GENDER WHO DIDNT.
(act) :23 o/c template brain
The method that we picked is one that looks at the whole brain.
Basically, it squishes and stretches a brain until its the same
shape as a standard brain, and keeps track of how much its
squished, or stretched, in each spot so that you can tell what the
volume of the brain was that matches any given part of the template
IN ADDITION TO THE SQUISHING AND STRETCHING OF THE IMAGE, THE METHOD ALSO CAN DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN GRAY MATTER AND WHITE MATTER IN THE BRAIN.
(act) :09 o/c the MRI
The method also figures how much gray matter or white matter
was in each spot based on the color, essentially, of the brain
image, of the MRI.
BLACK SAYS WHEN THE STUDY BEGAN, THE RESEARCHERS WERE FOCUSED ON PARTS OF THE BRAIN THAT ARE RELATED TO MOVEMENT BECAUSE TOURETTES IS CHARACTERIZED BY MOVEMENTS CALLED TICS. BUT BLACK SAYS THE STUDY DIDNT FIND DIFFERENCES IN THOSE PARTS OF THE BRAIN. INSTEAD, THEY FOUND EXTRA GRAY MATTER IN SOME PARTS OF THE BRAIN AND REDUCED WHITE MATTER IN OTHER PARTS, AND MANY OF THOSE BRAIN REGIONS WERE RELATED TO THE PROCESSING OF SENSATION. THAT COULD MAKE SOME SENSE, BLACK SAYS, BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE WITH TOURETTES REPORT THAT THEY TEND TO TIC IN RESPONSE TO A SENSATION.
(act) :24 o/c own beast
Like, Well, Im only clearing my throat because it feels funny,
that kind of thing. Or I only sniff because my nose feels itchy.
Maybe the sensory features are really the most obvious ones. Like,
if you have a cold, and somebody says, Well, why dont you stop
coughing? Youre like, Well, Im only coughing because Ive got
junk in my throat. You know, that kind of sense that, really, its
the feelings inside that lead to the tics, rather than the tics
being their own beast.
AS TO WHETHER THE DIFFERENCES IN THE BRAINS OF KIDS WITH TOURETTES ARE ACTUALLY CAUSING THEM TO TIC OR ARE THE RESULT OF THOSE CHILDREN TRYING TO ADJUST TO THEIR TICS, BLACK SAYS ITS TOO EARLY TO TELL.
(act) :23 o/c years now
Is this something that starts early in life? Does it start
before people have tics, and that leads to their having tics?
Or, is it a healthy response to tics that helps fight them off?
Those are questions that we can best answer by trying to catch
people very early on in the course of tic disorders. Thats a
line of work that Ive been trying to do for several years now.
HE SAYS THE SEARCH FOR A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT TOURETTES IS AND HOW TO TREAT IT MORE EFFECTIVELY CAN BE A SLOW PROCESS BECAUSE THE DISEASE IS RELATIVELY RARE, AND STUDIES TAKE A LONG TIME. BUT BLACK SAYS COOPERATION BETWEEN SEVERAL CENTERS, AS OCCURRED IN THIS STUDY, COULD HELP SPEED THE PACE OF DISCOVERY. THE NEW STUDY IS PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL MOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY. IM JIM DRYDEN