Children with TS control their movements more consciously
Children and adolescents with Tourette syndrome (TS) unconsciously train their brain to control their tics more effectively. This was discovered by researchers at the University of Nottingham. According to their study, which was published in the "British Journal of Neuropsychology", children with TS performed better than their healthy peers when asked to perform an attention test.
In one of the tests, the subjects were asked to look at a target. Here, the TS participants did not perform as well as the control group. They moved their eyes more slowly. But when the task became more demanding, requiring them to switch from looking at a target, then looking away, and then looking again, they outperformed their peers. While the speed was the same, the TS adolescents made fewer eye movements.
Study leader Georgina Jackson linked this to the fact that healthy children do not continuously worry about their behaviour, while TS children have to deal with potential embarrassments. They are constantly aware that their unintentional movements or noises could draw attention to themselves. According to Jackson, this is why they devote considerable time to controlling or even suppressing their movements. "What can be exhausting in everyday life offers them advantages regarding more complex sequences of movements," the scientist explained. Thus, they benefit from the more pronounced control of their motions.
Until now, it was assumed that TS tics correlated with a general impairment of controlling voluntary movements. However, this is not what the study finds, says Jackson. While the reflexive eye movements are slower, the controlled movements are better, and this, in turn, is associated with less severe tics. Previous studies had already indicated that this is related to changes in brain regions responsible for motor control.
It remains unclear if these cognitive measures can be used to predict remission of tics during adolescence. Further studies would be necessary
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