CogniFit's Science blog: New Study Finds Connection Between Motor Control And Tourette Syndrome

New Study Finds Connection Between Motor Control And Tourette Syndrome

While it is difficult to pinpoint just how many children have Tourette syndrome, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3 of every 1,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 have the disease. This rounds out to around 148,000 children. And recent studies show there is a major connection between Tourette’s and motor control.

There is no denying the fact that Tourette syndrome is a serious disease that deserves a lot of attention. Most people have the impression that it is a disease where cuss words are randomly blurted out. While this is the case for some, it is actually quite rare. Far more common symptoms include tics.

Tics begin when children are around the age of 5 to 10 with the first symptoms coming from motor tics, which occur in the head and neck area. Tics are usually worse during times of excitement and stress and disappear when calm. While it is a serious disease, new studies show there may actually be a slight advantage to those who have Tourette’s.

A new study has found that children with Tourette syndrome perform behavioral tests of cognitive motor control quicker and more accurate than those without the disorder. While characterized by repeated involuntary sounds and physical movements, there is an enhanced cognitive motor control in people with the syndrome.

The increase arises from structural and functional changes in the brain that researchers assume results from the need to constantly suppress tics. Someone from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom says the motor outputs of children with the syndrome are under greater cognitive control. It can be viewed as the child being less likely to respond without thinking or as being less reflexive.

In addition to the study that was conducted, MRI exams also have confirmed that the brain of someone suffering from Tourette’s shows changes in the white matter connections that allow different brain areas to communicate with each other.

It is important to note that this is just one study with many more needed to confirm the findings. However, this particular study’s findings explain why some with the syndrome who have profound tics during childhood are typically free of tics by early adulthood. However, others continue to have severe tics throughout their entire life.

In addition, the findings suggest that people with Tourette syndrome benefit from brain training techniques that can help them gain control of their symptoms. And with various mind exercises and games available, one can enhance their motor control that much more.