New Research Could Lead to Improved Tourette Syndrome Treatment

By Lauren Thayer from In The Cloud Copy

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder that is characterized by involuntary, repetitive movements and vocalizations.  These movements and vocalizations are called tics. Symptoms are typically first seen in early childhood, with average age of onset being somewhere between three and nine years of age. While this condition is seen across all ethnic groups, males are three to four times more likely to be affected than females.

Symptoms of Tourette syndrome are either simple or complex tics. Simple motor ticks involve brief, repetitive movements like blinking of the eyes, shoulder shrugging, or head jerking. Simple vocalizations may include repetitive grunting, sniffing, or throat clearing. Complex tics are more distinct and may include coordinated patterns of movement such as touching objects, hopping, or twisting.

Tics are often worse when the individual is experiencing anxiety or excitement and can be triggered or worsened by certain physical experiences.

Current Treatment for TS

Unfortunately, there is not any medication that is particularly helpful to all people with TS to completely eliminate symptoms.  Since most patients with TS have symptoms that don’t cause impairment, they don’t require any medication at all. For individuals with symptoms that interfere with functioning, there are medications available to help suppress tics. The medication class used are neuroleptics, which are drugs typically used to treat psychotic and non-psychotic disorders.

Future Treatments for TS

Fortunately for those suffering from TS, there is hope for new treatments. Researchers used a repetitive stimulation to the wrist, specifically to the median nerve, to entrain rhythmic brain activity- formally known as brain oscillations- to suppress movements.  They found that this rhythmic stimulation to the median nerve was sufficient to significantly reduce both the frequency and intensity of both tics themselves and the urge to tic.

The study results could be life-changing for those suffering from TS. Patients involved in the study at the University of Nottingham were observed for random 1-minute periods of time. During a one-minute period, they were delivered the constant rhythmic pulses to the median nerve, and during the next minute, they received no stimulation.  All of the cases studied found that the stimulation reduced both the tics and urge to tic in all individuals participating. The treatment most significantly affected those with the most severe tics.

This breakthrough treatment could be life changing for individuals suffering from TS. Reducing or nearly eliminating their tics could drastically change an affected individual’s life and self-confidence – things that are slowly destroyed or taken away with each tic.

This treatment would involve a simple wearable device and would eliminate the need for costly medications that are hard to come by and often have less than desirable side effects. This treatment could quite literally change the lives of those suffering from this debilitating disease.

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