Five-months-postoperative neuropsychological outcome from a pilot prospective randomized clinical trial of thalamic deep brain stimulation for Tourette syndrome

Mike R Schoenberg, Brian N Maddux, David E Riley, Christina M Whitney, Paula K Ogrocki, Deborah Gould, Robert J Maciunas
Neuromodulation: Journal of the International Neuromodulation Society 2015, 18 (2): 97-104

OBJECTIVE: Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder presenting with motor and/or sonic tics associated with frontostriatal dysfunction. This study provided pilot data of the neuropsychological safety of bilateral thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat medication-refractory TS in adults.

METHOD: This study used a repeated-measures design with pretest and 3-month follow-up from start of continuous bilateral DBS. Five male patients underwent DBS surgery for medically refractory TS. Repeated-measures ANOVA was used to evaluate for any change in neuropsychological test scores, employing a false discovery rate. Outcome measures included 14 neuropsychological tests assessing psychomotor speed, attention, memory, language, visuoconstructional, and executive functions, as well as subjective mood ratings of depression and anxiety.

RESULTS: Average age was 28.2 years (SD = 7.5) with 12-17 years of education. Participants were disabled by tics, with a tic frequency of 50-80 per minute before surgery. At baseline, subjects' cognitive function was generally average, although mild deficits in sequencing and verbal fluency were present, as were clinically mild obsessive-compulsive symptoms. At 3 months of continuous DBS (5 months after implantation), 3 of 5 participants had clinical reductions in motor and sonic tics. Cognitive scores generally remained stable, but declines of moderate to large effect size (Cohen's d > 0.6) in verbal fluency, visual immediate memory, and reaction time were observed. Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as fewer obsessions and compulsions, were reported after 3 months of continuous high-frequency DBS.

CONCLUSIONS: Bilateral centromedian-parafascicular thalamic DBS for medically refractory TS shows promise for treatment of medically refractory TS without marked neuropsychological morbidity. Symptoms of depression and anxiety improved.

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