The cognitive neuropsychiatry of Tourette syndrome

Andrea E. Cavanna*, Christos Ganos, Andreas Hartmann, Davide Martino, Tamara Pringsheim, Stefano Seri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Converging evidence from both clinical and experimental studies has shown that Tourette syndrome (TS) is not a unitary condition, but a cluster of multiple phenotypes, which encompass both tics and specific behavioural and cognitive symptoms (mainly attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder). Methods: We conducted a narrative review of the recent literature on the cognitive neuropsychiatry of TS. Results: Although clinical research has shown that TS is not associated with cognitive deficits per se, the findings of recent studies have suggested the presence of subtle alterations in specific cognitive functions. A promising line of research on imitative behaviour could provide a common background for the alterations in executive control and social cognition observed in TS. Two different (but not mutually exclusive) neurocognitive theories have recently suggested that TS could originate from altered perception-action binding and social decision-making dysfunction, respectively. Conclusions: Since the presence of behavioural comorbidities influences individualised treatment approaches, it is likely that a more precise characterisation of TS phenotypes, including cognitive aspects, will result in improved levels of care for patients with tic disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-268
Number of pages15
JournalCognitive Neuropsychiatry
Issue number4
Early online date6 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Cognitive Neuropsychiatry on 6 May 2020, available online at:


  • attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder
  • behaviour
  • cognitive neuropsychiatry
  • health-related quality of life
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • perception-action binding
  • premonitory urges
  • social decision-making
  • tics
  • Tourette syndrome


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