Therapy could aid Tourette symptoms
Behavioural therapy could help to reduce the symptoms of children with Tourette syndrome, a study suggests.
Researchers discovered that the brains of children with the problem develop in a unique way.
The study showed that in many cases, the brain tries to compensate for the condition by reorganising its structure during the teenage years.
Scientists believe that encouraging this process with behavioural therapy could help young people learn to control their symptoms more quickly and effectively.
Tourette syndrome is an inherited condition that affects one school child in 100. It is characterised by "tics" - involuntary and uncontrollable sounds and movements.
The new approach could provide an alternative to drug-based therapies which can have undesirable side effects, including weight gain and depression.
Study leader Professor Stephen Jackson, from the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham, said: "We had previously shown, somewhat paradoxically, that children with Tourette syndrome have greater control over their motor behaviour than typically-developing children of a similar age, and we had speculated that this was due to compensatory changes in the brain that helped these children control their tics.
"This new study provides compelling evidence that this enhanced control of motor output is accompanied by structural and functional alterations within the brain. This finding suggests that non-pharmacological, 'brain-training', approaches may prove to be an effective treatment for Tourette syndrome."
The findings, from a brain imaging study, are reported today in the journal Current Biology.
The syndrome is usually first identified at around the ages of six to seven, with tics reaching their maximum at age 12.
In about half of all cases, Tourette symptoms continue into adulthood.