Date of Graduation

5-2010

Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Neuroscience

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Anne B. Sereno, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ian J. Butler, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pramod K. Dash, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey S. Morris, Ph.D.

Committee Member

M. Neal Waxham, Ph.D.

Abstract

Tourette Syndrome begins in childhood and is characterized by uncontrollable repetitive actions like neck craning or hopping and noises such as sniffing or chirping. Worst in early adolescence, these tics wax and wane in severity and occur in bouts unpredictably, often drawing unwanted attention from bystanders. Making matters worse, over half of children with Tourette Syndrome also suffer from comorbid, or concurrent, disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). These disorders introduce anxious thoughts, impulsivity, inattention, and mood variability that further disrupt children with Tourette Syndrome from focusing and performing well at school and home. Thus, deficits in the cognitive control functions of response inhibition, response generation, and working memory have long been ascribed to Tourette Syndrome. Yet, without considering the effect of medication, age, and comorbidity, this is a premature attribution. This study used an infrared eye tracking camera and various computer tasks requiring eye movement responses to evaluate response inhibition, response generation, and working memory in Tourette Syndrome. This study, the first to control for medication, age, and comorbidity, enrolled 39 unmedicated children with Tourette Syndrome and 29 typically developing peers aged 10-16 years who completed reflexive and voluntary eye movement tasks and diagnostic rating scales to assess symptom severities of Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD. Children with Tourette Syndrome and comorbid ADHD and/or OCD, but not children with Tourette Syndrome only, took longer to respond and made more errors and distracted eye movements compared to typically-developing children, displaying cognitive control deficits. However, increasing symptom severities of Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, and OCD correlated with one another. Thus, cognitive control deficits were not specific to Tourette Syndrome patients with comorbid conditions, but rather increase with increasing tic severity, suggesting that a majority of Tourette Syndrome patients, regardless of a clinical diagnosis of ADHD and/or OCD, have symptoms of cognitive control deficits at some level. Therefore, clinicians should evaluate and counsel all families of children with Tourette Syndrome, with or without currently diagnosed ADHD and/or OCD, about the functional ramifications of comorbid symptoms and that they may wax and wane with tic severity.

Keywords

eye movements, saccade, basal ganglia, cognitive control, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder