Deep brain stimulation for severe Tourette syndrome

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Deep brain stimulation may be a safe and effective treatment for people with severe Tourette syndrome, according to research appearing this week in the journal Neurology. Roughly 2 million Americans have Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by uncontrolled movements and vocalizations or tics, lasting more than a year. Early signs of the syndrome almost always appear in childhood (usually between the ages of 7 and 10). Some of the most common tics include eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging and head and shoulder jerking. Although the study was small—only 15 adults with severe Tourette syndrome were included—the results were promising. After the deep brain stimulation, the participants experienced 52 % fewer tics on average and had a 26 to 33 % improvement in symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which often goes hand-in-hand with Tourette syndrome. Deep brain stimulation has been used successfully to treat other movement disorders, such as Parkinson disease.