Help or hurt? How attention modulates tics under different conditions


Tourette syndrome is a neuropsychiatric developmental disorder, characterized by tics that are often preceded by an increasingly uncomfortable urge to move. Tic frequency can increase when patients pay attention to their tics, if tics are not suppressed. This study investigates how attentions modulates urge intensity, tic frequency and arousal during free ticcing and tic suppression. Tic frequency (video recording), urge intensity (rating scale) and pupil width (pupillometry as a measure of arousal) were assessed in 23 patients with Tourette syndrome (mean age 33.48 ± 12.37; 14 male) during five attention conditions: 1) baseline, 2) watching own tics in a live video-feedback, 3) watching own tics in a previously recorded video, 4) thinking about situations that can trigger tics and 5) thinking about specific, non-tic related stimuli (distraction condition) during: a) free ticcing and b) tic suppression tic states. Urge intensity and tic frequency increased in the free ticcing condition when patients viewed their own tics live and when they thought about tic-triggering situations. In the tic suppression condition, tic frequency increased when patients watched a video of their tics, thought about their tics or were distracted. Pupil width increased significantly during the live feedback and the video condition compared to baseline in both tic states. Paying attention to own tics can be detrimental when tics are not suppressed. In contrast, paying attention to other stimuli appears detrimental when tics are suppressed, as would be the case during most current behavioural therapy techniques. However, results point to high emotional arousal and patients feeling uncomfortable when seeing themselves tic. The results also suggest that urge intensity is modulated by changes in attention in the same manner as tics and may drive change in tic frequency during free ticcing.

Seiten (von - bis)471-482
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 11.2019


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