Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental condition that is usually diagnosed between the ages of eight and 12. It causes involuntary sounds and movements called tics. Tics are repetitive, stereotyped movements and vocalisations that occur in bouts, typically many times in a single day, and are often preceded by a strong urge-to-tic, referred to as a premonitory urge (PU).
Previous research by scientists from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology and School of Medicine used repetitive trains of electrical stimulation to the median nerve (MNS) at the wrist to entrain rhythmic electrical brain activity – known as brain oscillations – associated with the suppression of movements. They found that rhythmic MNS substantially reduces tic frequency and tic intensity, and remove the urge-to-tic, in individuals with TS.
Trial participants used the device at home at a similar time each day for 15 mins for a period of one month. A subset of people were also videoed each day. Each week participants gave feedback on their experience.
The results of the trial revealed that people who received active stimulation experienced a significant reduction in the severity and frequency of their tics. On average, they saw a reduction in tic frequency of more than 25% while they received stimulation.
After using the device for 4 weeks, people who received active stimulation experienced a reduction in their tic severity of more than 35%. In total, 59% of the people who received active stimulation experienced a reduction in tic severity of at least 25% compared to baseline.
13-year-old Mylo was one of the participants in the trial. His parents noticed unusual symptoms when he was a toddler, but he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 10 after his tics became more noticeable. He said: “The device was easy to use – you strap it on like a watch and press a button to start it. You have to make sure the pads are on the back properly otherwise it might hurt a tiny bit. When the stimulation occurs it feels a bit like a fizzing on my wrist and forearm, not painful just a bit different.
The device definitely helped my tics. I still did the occasional tic when it was on but the need to do it was a lot less. I definitely want this device when it is available. I think it can help people with Tourette’s in different ways. For me, I would use it if I was going to the cinema or the theatre – places where you sometimes have to be quiet or still so you don’t disturb people. Tourette’s can be really exhausting sometimes, like when you have a tic attack and can’t get a break from it – this device could really help with that. I think different people would benefit in different ways – because Tourette’s can vary quite a lot. I don’t think I would use it all day, just when I felt I especially needed it.”