Reward enhances tic suppression in children within months of tic disorder onset

Deanna J. Greene, Jonathan M. Koller, Amy Robichaux-Viehoever, Emily C. Bihun, Bradley L. Schlaggar, Kevin J. Black
  • Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, February 2015, Elsevier
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2014.08.005

Kids can suppress tics early on--if the price is right

What is it about?

We studied 21 children who had been ticcing for less than 6 months (3.5 months, on average). We recorded video clips in several conditions, including "OK to tic", "try not to tic", or "DRO" (given a plastic reward token every time they went 10 seconds without ticcing). A child neurologist rated the video clips without knowing which instructions had been given. During the DRO condition, the number of tic-free intervals increased by 16%, versus 4% during "try not to tic" (without rewards).

Why is it important?

Children with Tourette syndrome (TS) have had tics for over a year. They can often suppress their tics briefly, and do so better when rewarded for successful suppression. But does the ability to suppress tics develop only with practice over the years, or was it there from the outset? Here we demonstrate reward-enhanced tic suppression within the first few months of a tic disorder. This suggests that behavior therapy for tics may work, at least for some children, even before TS can be diagnosed.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kevin J. Black