Sussex Centre for Consciousness Science

Action Control in Tourette Syndrome

Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by involuntary motor and vocal tics. These tics are often associated with a strong urge to move or vocalise. However, a curious feature of Tourette Syndrome is that patients can sometimes voluntarily suppress their involuntary tics. The psychosocial impact of Tourette Syndrome can be highly distressing, but as the neurobiological underpinnings are still unclear, this can hamper tailored and effective treatments for tics.

In our research at the Sackler Centre, we are using a combination of neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neuroscience of involuntary tics and voluntary tic suppression. We aim to address why tics happen, where in the brain they come from, and why they can be hard to stop.

In our current study, participants are completing action control tasks during neuroimaging. Using MRI, we will apply structural and functional connectivity analyses to investigate how interactions between regions of the brain important for control of voluntary action work differently in Tourette Syndrome. Using the Sackler Centre’s EEG-TMS system, we can disrupt activity in key cortical regions of these networks to address the timescale over which conscious control of action unfolds, and how this may proceed differently in Tourette Syndrome.

This translational research relates to ongoing work within the Sackler Centre on volition and agency and interoception.


Alice Brooke, Hugo Critchley, Jess Eccles, Sarah Garfinkel, Neil Harrison, Charlotte Rae, Anil Seth