Tourette syndrome has been associated with impairments of attentional functions such as distractability, even in subjects without co-morbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Based on the results of earlier research we hypothesized that Tourette syndrome patients might employ altered control mechanisms of attentional processes and have concurrent difficulties in allocating their attentional resources among competing tasks. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded in a group of Tourette syndrome patients and in a matched control group during a dual task experiment. This experiment required the simultaneous detection of visual and auditory target stimuli which were manipulated to yield two different difficulty levels each of which were varied orthogonally. The behavioural parameters confirmed the intended performance differences between difficult-to-detect targets and easy-to-detect targets. This was paralleled by lower amplitudes and longer latencies of the corresponding P3b-ERP subcomponents. Although Tourette syndrome patients were unimpaired in overall performance they showed an increased interference of visual task demands with auditory target perception. In parallel they also exhibited a reduced amplitude of the P3b component to auditory targets. The findings show that Tourette syndrome patients are not generally impaired in their dual task performance. The allocation of attentional resources to competing tasks however, is altered. We speculate that this may be related to deficient inhibitory functions.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)