A research claims that deep brain stimulation may be a protected and effective treatment for Tourette syndrome. It is claimed that around two million Americans suffer from Tourette syndrome, which is a neurological disorder defined by unrestrained movements and vocalizations, or tics, lasting more than a year. One of the first symptoms of Tourette syndrome are approximately always observed in childhood and some regular tics comprise of eye blinking, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging and head or shoulder jerking. People who suffer from Tourette syndrome frequently also have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Study author Andrea Cavanna, MD, of the University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, commented, “Our findings hold promise for helping people with severe Tourette syndrome, who are in need of new treatment options to improve their quality of life.”

Around 15 people were included in the study. They suffered from severe Tourette syndrome and OCD and were an average age of 30 and persisted to have severe symptoms after attempting medications and psychobehavioral treatments. It was seen they also had elevated levels of depression and anxiety at the beginning of the study. The subjects were followed and examined for two years following deep brain stimulation, which includes a surgically entrenched brain pacemaker that sends electrical impulses to particular portions of the brain.

The study discovered that the subjects experienced around 52 percent lesser tics on average and a 26 to 33 percent progress was seen in terms of the symptoms of OCD, depression and anxiety two years after deep brain stimulation started. Deep brain stimulation apparently had no considerable effect on thinking abilities in the study.

Cavanna mentioned, “Despite having only 15 patients in this study, it is the largest to date on the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation as a treatment for Tourette syndrome. The results showed that all 15 people who were assessed after two years’ treatment experienced improvements in disabling tics and neurological problems, which is encouraging. Unfortunately three patients from the original group of 18 were no longer part of the study at follow up and this limits the ability to generalize our findings. More research needs to be done to confirm that deep brain stimulation is a safe and effective treatment for Tourette syndrome.”

Deep brain stimulation is FDA approved for the treatment of vital tremor, Parkinson’s disease and dystonia.

This study was published in the American Academy of Neurology.