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Behavioral therapy helps Tourette syndrome

SAN ANTONIO, May 19 (UPI) -- A U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study shows behavioral therapy is effective in treating children with Tourette syndrome and related tic disorders.

The multisite study found a specialized form of behavioral therapy called CBIT -- Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics -- significantly reduced tic-related problems in children and adolescents with the chronic neurological disorder.

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Tourette is characterized by motor and vocal tics, including facial grimacing, head jerking and grunting.

"The behavioral therapy employed in CBIT is built on the observation that tics are preceded by unwanted feelings or sensations," said Dr. Alan Peterson, a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center who, with his graduate school mentor Nathan Azrin, created the therapy.

"These unwanted sensations are temporarily relieved by the performance of the tics" Peterson said. "In CBIT, children learn to recognize when a tic is about to occur and to engage in an alternative voluntary action until the unwanted sensation passes. In addition, parents were taught how to promote these management strategies in the children."

Peterson said Tourette's syndrome has been historically treated with anti-psychotic medications associated with side effects that often limit their usefulness in children.

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The research that included UCLA, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Yale University, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Weill Cornell Medical College and the Tourette Syndrome Association is reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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