Randomized, Sham-Controlled Trial of Real-Time Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Neurofeedback for Tics in Adolescents With Tourette Syndrome



      Activity in the supplementary motor area (SMA) has been associated with tics in Tourette syndrome (TS). The aim of this study was to test a novel intervention—real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback from the SMA—for reduction of tics in adolescents with TS.


      Twenty-one adolescents with TS were enrolled in a double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled, crossover study involving two sessions of neurofeedback from their SMA. The primary outcome measure of tic severity was the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale administered by an independent evaluator before and after each arm. The secondary outcome was control over the SMA assessed in neuroimaging scans, in which subjects were cued to increase/decrease activity in SMA without receiving feedback.


      All 21 subjects completed both arms of the study and all assessments. Participants had significantly greater reduction of tics on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale after real neurofeedback as compared with the sham control (p < .05). Mean Yale Global Tic Severity Scale Total Tic score decreased from 25.2 ± 4.6 at baseline to 19.9 ± 5.7 at end point in the neurofeedback condition and from 24.8 ± 8.1 to 23.3 ± 8.5 in the sham control condition. The 3.8-point difference is clinically meaningful and corresponds to an effect size of 0.59. However, there were no differences in changes on the secondary measure of control over the SMA.


      This first randomized controlled trial of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback in adolescents with TS suggests that this neurofeedback intervention may be helpful for improving tic symptoms. However, no effects were found in terms of change in control over the SMA, the hypothesized mechanism of action.


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      Linked Article

      • Potential New Tourette Syndrome Treatments: Will Real-Time Neurofeedback Have a Role?
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 87Issue 12
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          Tourette syndrome (TS), also known as Tourette’s disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder with onset in early childhood characterized by multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic that have been present for longer than 1 year. TS is a model neuropsychiatric disorder, in that the vast majority of affected individuals, whether ascertained in clinical or community settings, experience at least one co-occurring psychiatric disorder, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or mood, anxiety, and specific learning disorders (1).
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