Children With Tourette Syndrome Have Better Motor Control, Study Finds

Enhanced abilities likely result from brain changes linked to constantly repressing tics, researchers say

THURSDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Children with Tourette syndrome perform behavioral tests of cognitive motor control more quickly and accurately than those without the disorder, a new study found.

Tourette syndrome is characterized by repeated involuntary sounds and physical movements called tics, which may involve blinking, grimacing, shrugging, twisting, grunting or -- in rare adult cases -- blurting out swear words.

The enhanced cognitive motor control in people with Tourette syndrome arises from structural and functional changes in the brain that likely result from the need to constantly suppress tics, according to the authors of the study, which was published online March 24 in the journal Current Biology.

"The motor outputs of children with Tourette syndrome are under greater cognitive control. You might view this as their being less likely to respond without thinking, or as being less reflexive," Stephen Jackson, of the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, said in a journal news release.

MRI exams also confirmed that the "Tourette's brain" showed changes in the white-matter connections that allowed different brain areas to communicate with each another, Jackson added.

The study findings may help explain why some people with Tourette syndrome who have profound tics during childhood are relatively tic-free by early adulthood, while others continue to have severe tics throughout their life, the researchers said.

The findings also suggest that people with Tourette syndrome may benefit from "brain training" techniques that help them gain control of their symptoms.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Tourette syndrome.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, March 24, 2011

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