Transcranial magnetic stimulation in tourette syndrome: A historical perspective, its current use and the influence of comorbidities in treatment response

Marco Grados, Rachel Huselid, Laura Duque-Serrano

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Background. Tourette syndrome (TS) is a childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorder consisting of impairing motor and vocal tics which often persists adolescent and adult years. In this older refractory group, standard treatments such as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapeutic interventions may only have limited effects. Based on electrical cortical dysregulation in individuals with TS, a novel approach has employed brain stimulation strategies to modulate the putative aberrant neural electrical activity in pathways that may underlie tics, such as insula-supplementary motor area (SMA) connectivity. Methods. This review will examine all published clinical trials employing transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to ameliorate tics, and discuss a framework for the pathophysiology of TS in relation to electrical brain activity. A framework for future research in tic disorders using TMS and imaging targeting neuroplasticity will be discussed. Results. Therapeutic electrical brain activity modulation with TMS has been carried out in stroke neuro-rehabilitation and neuropsychiatry, including trials in TS. Eleven trials document the use of TMS in TS targeting several brain areas, a positive effect is seen for those trials targeting the SMA. In particular, it appears that younger individuals with concurrent attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) benefit the most. Conclusions. TMS can be used as an effective tool to explore the psychophysiology of TS and potentially provide a therapeutic option. Ultimately, translational research using TMS in TS needs to explore connectivity differences pre-and post-treatment in individuals with TS that are linked to improvement in tic symptoms, with an emphasis on approaches using functional neuroimaging as well as other probes of neuroplasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number129
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2018



  • Insula
  • Supplementary motor area
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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