Possible cure for Tourette's through wristwatch-style gadget

People with Tourette’s have new found hope thanks to a wristwatch-like device.

The groundbreaking technology could change the lives of thousands of people living with Tourette Syndrome (TS) by sending pulses to their wrist which help to reduce their tics, new research shows.

Study participant Charlie, who has had TS for three years, wanted to ‘cry with happiness’ after his first session of the stimulation and said the breakthrough technology will ‘hopefully change people’s lives for good.’

The 21-year-old, from Lincolnshire, said: ‘I’ve tried a lot of different medications, therapies, relaxation techniques, support groups and diet changes to try to relieve my Tourette’s. Although I was skeptical, I was keen to be involved in this study.

‘The whole experiment was very surreal. When the electrical pulse on the wrist started to increase, the tic urges decreased, which was a completely shocking experience for me.

‘I was silent and still. For a further three sessions I noticed the same result, also the stimulation did decrease my tics at home. At the first session of the stimulation, I felt as if finally, a new treatment may have been found to free myself from my Tourette’s and wanted to cry with happiness.

‘This breakthrough could change individual’s mental stability in life and confidence, which is vital as Tourette’s Syndrome can destroy your life a tic at time. This breakthrough will hopefully change people’s lives for the good.’

TS is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is usually diagnosed between the ages of eight and 12.

People with TS make repetitive involuntary sounds and movements called tics which occur in bouts, typically many times in a single day.

These tics are caused by changes in chemical signals in the brain and often come after a strong urge-to-tic, known as a premonitory urge (PU).

In the new study, scientists used repetitive trains of stimulation to the median nerve (MNS) at the wrist to increase the strength of electrical brain activity, known as brain oscillations.

This managed to substantially reduce the frequency and intensity of tics and the urge to tic in people with TS.

Study lead author Barbara Morera Maiquez, from the University of Nottingham, said: ‘The results of this study were quite remarkable, especially in those people with the most severe tics, and showed that this type of stimulation has real potential as a treatment aid for Tourette’s.

‘Our aim is to develop a wearable ‘watch-like’ MNS stimulator that looks like an Apple Watch or Fitbit and can be used by the individual outside of the clinic as and when they need to control their tics.’

A total 19 people with TS took part in the study.

They were observed for random one-minute periods when they were given constant rhythmic pulses of the MNS to their right wrist and one-minute periods when they received no stimulation.

In all cases the stimulation reduces the tics and also the urge-to-tic.

People with the most severe tics saw the most significant effects from the device.
Suzanne Dobson, chief executive of Tourettes Action, said the charity is delighted to support the initiative.

She said: ‘Tourettes Action are delighted to support this ground breaking research. There is no pharmaceutical treatment for Tourette Syndrome, only drugs used to treat other conditions currently the preferred treatments are the psychological treatments which are not easily available.

‘This wearable and self-managing treatment could potentially change the lives of thousands of people living with TS. We will continue to support the team at the University of Nottingham as this amazing treatment continues to evolve.’

Tourettes Action and the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre funded the study.

The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

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