Functional neuroimaging studies have attempted to explore brain activity that occurs with tic occurrence in subjects with Tourette syndrome (TS). However, they are limited by the difficulty of disambiguating brain activity required to perform a tic, or activity caused by the tic, from brain activity that generates a tic. Inhibiting ticcing following the urge to tic is important to patients' experience of tics and we hypothesize that inhibition of a compelling motor response to a natural urge will differ in TS subjects compared to controls. This study examines the urge to blink, which shares many similarities to premonitory urges to tic. Previous neuroimaging studies with the same hypothesis have used a one-size-fits-all approach to extract brain signal putatively linked to the urge to blink. We aimed to create a subject-specific and blink-timing-specific pathophysiological model, derived from out-of-scanner blink suppression trials, to eventually better interpret blink suppression fMRI data. Eye closure and continuously self-reported discomfort were reported during five blink suppression trials in 30 adult volunteers, 15 with a chronic tic disorder. For each subject, data from four of the trials were used with an empirical mathematical model to predict discomfort from eye closure observed during the remaining trial. The blink timing model of discomfort during blink suppression predicted observed discomfort much better than previously applied models. Combining this approach with observed eye closure during fMRI blink suppression trials should therefore extract brain signal more tightly linked to the urge to blink. The simple mean of time-discomfort curves from each subject's other trials also outperformed older models. The TS group blinked more than twice as often during the blink suppression block, and reported higher baseline discomfort, smaller excursion from baseline to peak discomfort during the blink suppression block, and slower return of discomfort to baseline during the recovery block.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-566
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Blinking
  • Inhibition (psychology)
  • Tic disorders
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Urge


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