Behavioural therapy may help reduce tics in kids with Tourette syndrome

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Washington, May 19 (ANI): A new study led by a UCLA researcher has developed an effective, non-medication treatment for children and adolescents with Tourette's and related tic disorders that has shown improvement similar to that found in recent anti-tic medication studies.

Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by twitches like grimacing, blinking and vocalizations, is normally treated in children and teens with one of several antipsychotic medications.

But such drugs usually don't cure tics completely, and worse, they can often have side effects, acting as sedatives, causing weight gain and impairing cognitive function.

Now, lead study author John Piacentini, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and his colleagues at seven sites around the nation found that a specialized form of behavior therapy called comprehensive behavioural intervention for tics, or CBIT, significantly reduced chronic tics and tic-related problems in children and adolescents.

Almost 53 percent of children receiving CBIT were rated as significantly improved, compared with 19 percent of those receiving a comparison treatment.

Tourette's syndrome is often accompanied by other psychiatric problems, difficulties in school, work and social functioning.

In this new kind of therapy, children learned to recognize when a tic was about to occur and to engage in a voluntary action incompatible with the tic until the unwanted sensation passed.

Parents were also taught how to aid there children in such situations and reduce stressful conditions for their kids.

"The fact that CBIT works about as well as the standard medications for tics but without the negative side effects greatly expands the available treatment options for chronic tic disorders," said Susanna Chang, a UCLA assistant professor of psychiatry and a study author. "Importantly, CBIT also emphasizes the development of skills that foster autonomy and empowerment, allowing for patients and their families to take a more active role in treatment than previously indicated."

Piacentini are considering using neuroimaging and other neuroscientific techniques to examine the brain mechanisms underlying how CBIT might work.

In addition, investigators are currently working with the Tourette Syndrome Association and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to teach CBIT to clinicians who treat children with tic disorders and to develop new versions of CBIT for use with younger children and by nurses and other health care professionals.

The study appears in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (ANI)

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