Habit Reversal Training for Tourettes Syndrome
The researchers found that cognitive behavioural therapy normalised activity in the supplementary motor area of the brains of study participants with Tourette syndrome.
The findings of the study will be presented at the First World Congress on Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders in London, UK, and could have implications for the future treatment of people with the neuropsychiatric disorder.
Tourette syndrome is an inherited tic disorder characterised by motor and vocal tics - repetitive semi-voluntary movements or vocalisations with no apparent purpose.
"There is still no definitive explanation of the causes of this syndrome, but we know that tics are related to an impaired communication between the supplementary motor area - a region of the cerebral cortex - and deeper areas called the basal ganglia," said Simon Morand-Beaulieu, a student in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Montreal, Canada.
Many people do not require any treatment for Tourette syndrome, but for some the tics can be disruptive and can - for young people in particular - make learning and socialising difficult. For these individuals, certain forms of treatment are available, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
CBT is a blend of cognitive therapy and behavioural therapy that focuses on helping people to focus on their problems and how they might solve them, assisting them to identify problematic forms of behaviour and change them.
In people with Tourette syndrome, CBT helps to normalise activity in the supplementary motor region of the brain by utilising relaxation and exercises targeting muscles associated with tics.
"In addition to the beneficial effects on tics, we wanted to see if CBT effectively alters the brain function of people with [Tourette syndrome]," says Morand-Beaulieu.