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Understanding brain hiccups

Project start for German-Israeli-American cooperation project for the investigation of the origins of Tourette
Understanding brain hiccups

3D reconstruction of the brain regions mainly investigated in the Chemnitz project: The striatum, a part of the basal ganglia, is marked in red.University of British Columbia (

Since May 1, 2018, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project "Neuronal Simulation Models of Basal Ganglia Dysfunction in Tourette's Syndrome". In addition to the Chemnitz University of Technology, the project partners are Bar Ilan University (Israel) and the University of Pittsburgh (USA). The project is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Fred Hamker, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Chemnitz University of Technology. The three-year project aims to conduct more detailed research into the development of the "tics" characteristic of the disease.

Hamker's research group is developing simulation models for this project, which depict the behaviour of neuronal networks. The focus lies on the basal ganglia, which are located below the cerebral cortex and play an important role in motor control. While models of basal ganglia in healthy condition and Parkinson's disease have already been developed in extensive preliminary work, the focus is now on the suspected changes in the basal ganglia that lead to the development of "tics".

In addition, the Israeli project partners are conducting experimental studies on rats in which physiological data on brain activity during Tic-like conditions are collected. Based on this data, existing simulation models can be tested and further improved. The project is complemented by the expertise of the American project partner in the simulation of nerve cells on a smaller, biophysically detailed scale.

The results of this basic research can generate ideas for new therapeutic approaches for Tourette patients.

Background Tourette Syndrom

Tourette's syndrome is a neuro-psychiatric disease defined by the occurrence of so-called "tics". Tics are sudden, fast and recurring non-rhythmic movements or sound expressions. The development of tics is associated with specific abnormalities of brain activity. Basal ganglia in particular are attributed a role in the development of tics. The underlying mechanisms are still largely unexplored.

Translation from original Press Release by TU CHemnitz.