Merging the Pathophysiology and Pharmacotherapy of Tics

  • Farhan Augustine
  • Harvey S. Singer

Abstract

Background: Anatomically, cortical-basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical (CBGTC) circuits have an essential role in the expression of tics. At the biochemical level, the proper conveyance of messages through these circuits requires several functionally integrated neurotransmitter systems. In this manuscript, evidence supporting proposed pathophysiological abnormalities, both anatomical and chemical is reviewed. In addition, the results of standard and emerging tic-suppressing therapies affecting nine separate neurotransmitter systems are discussed. The goal of this review is to integrate our current understanding of the pathophysiology of Tourette syndrome (TS) with present and proposed pharmacotherapies for tic suppression.

Methods: For this manuscript, literature searches were conducted for both current basic science and clinical information in PubMed, Google-Scholar, and other scholarly journals to September 2018.

Results: The precise primary site of abnormality for tics remains undetermined. Although many pathophysiologic hypotheses favor a specific abnormality of the cortex, striatum, or globus pallidus, others recognize essential influences from regions such as the thalamus, cerebellum, brainstem, and ventral striatum. Some prefer an alteration within direct and indirect pathways, whereas others believe this fails to recognize the multiple interactions within and between CBGTC circuits. Although research and clinical evidence supports involvement of the dopaminergic system, additional data emphasizes the potential roles for several other neurotransmitter systems.

Discussion: A greater understanding of the primary neurochemical defect in TS would be extremely valuable for the development of new tic-suppressing therapies. Nevertheless, recognizing the varied and complex interactions that exist in a multi-neurotransmitter system, successful therapy may not require direct targeting of the primary abnormality.