Learning volition: A longitudinal study of developing intentional awareness in Tourette syndrome

Tina Mainka, Steven Di Costa, Friederike Borngräber, Ewgenia Barow, Alexander Münchau, Christos Ganos, Patrick Haggard*

*Corresponding author for this work


Tourette syndrome (TS) is characterized by the presence of involuntary movements (tics) which are, at least partly, generated within ‘voluntary’ motor pathways. Here we reassess 16 TS patients (age 19 ± 2.3 years) who participated in a mental chronometry study of volition 5.5 years previously (Ganos C et al. Cortex. 2015 Mar.; 64:47–54), and 16 age-matched controls. Participants estimated the time of their own voluntary movements (Libet's M judgement), or of conscious intention to make voluntary movements (Libet's W judgement), in separate blocks. We considered M judgement as a control condition. Therefore, the experience of an intention to move occurring prior to actual movement onset, as measured by the W-M gap, was taken as the cardinal feature of volition. Time estimates of the TS group did not differ significantly from controls, for either M or W judgement. Further, M and W time estimates in the TS group had not changed significantly between the two assessments. However, exploratory analyses revealed a strong relation between disease duration and the development of M- and W-judgements: the longer was the disease duration, the less was the developmental increase in the W-M gap (linear regression, p = .003). In conclusion, our results suggest compromised development of experience of volition in developing TS patients. The developmental difficulty in processing internal premotor signals for voluntary actions could reflect the chronic persistence of tics from adolescence to adulthood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 08.2020

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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