Journal article

Altered modulation of intracortical excitability during movement preparation in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome

Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric disorder in which cortical disinhibition has been proposed as a pathophysiological mechanism involved in the generation of tics. Tics are typically reduced during task performance and concentration. How this task-dependent reduction of motor symptoms is represented in the brain is not yet understood. The aim of the current research was to study motorcortical excitability at rest and during the preparation of a simple motor task. Transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to examine corticospinal excitability, short-interval intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation in a group of 11 patients with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome and age-matched healthy controls. Parameters of cortical excitability were evaluated at rest and at six points in time during the preparation of a simple finger movement. Patients with Gilles de la Tourette syndrome displayed significantly reduced short-interval intracortical inhibition at rest, while no differences were apparent for unconditioned motor evoked potential or intracortical facilitation. During the premovement phase, significant differences between groups were seen for single pulse motor evoked potential amplitudes and short-interval intracortical inhibition. Short-interval intracortical inhibition was reduced in the early phase of movement preparation (similar to rest) followed by a transition towards more inhibition. Subsequently modulation of short-interval intracortical inhibition was comparable to controls, while corticospinal recruitment was reduced in later phases of movement preparation. The present data support the hypothesis of motorcortical disinhibition in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome at rest. During performance of a motor task, patients start from an abnormally disinhibited level of short-interval intracortical inhibition early during movement preparation with subsequent modulation of inhibitory activity similar to healthy controls. We hypothesize that while at rest, abnormal subcortical inputs from aberrant striato-thalamic afferents target the motor cortex, during motor performance, motor cortical excitability most likely underlies top-down control from higher motor areas and prefrontal cortex, which override these abnormal subcortical inputs to guarantee adequate behavioural performance.


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