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Behavioral Therapy May Reduce Tourette Tics, Symptoms
Date:4/21/2011

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Tics and other problems plaguing people with Tourette syndrome can be significantly reduced with relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy, according to a small new study.

By using tests that measured symptoms common to the illness, the study found that 10 adult Tourette patients improved by 57 percent after cognitive behavioral therapy. Their brain activity also became more typical as measured electronically, the study found.

Cognitive behavioral therapy includes relaxation techniques, biofeedback and "habit reversal." The latter teaches patients to inhibit uncontrolled movement by practicing reverse "competitive" motions.

The study's lead author noted that the findings show that adult brains may be more malleable than once thought.

"Even during adulthood the brain is sufficiently plastic to reorganize its network concomitantly with behavioral change," said Marc Lavoie, a certified researcher at the University of Montreal, where the study was done. "The research showed that psychotherapy can modify cerebral activation," he said.

The study, done at the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital's Fernand-Seguin Research Centre, also showed significant fine motor skill improvement among study group members. The findings were published in April in a special edition of the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, three out of every 1,000 children, mostly boys, are diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, a genetically based disorder often accompanied by anxiety and depression. Symptoms, usually peaking between 10 and 12 years of age, can include physical tics and verbal outbursts, as well as nail biting, hair pulling, face scratching and other repetitive self-inflicted injuries.

In the study, 10 Tourette patients were matched with a control group of 14 people who h
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