Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics. Tic fluctuations are common and thought to be attributable in part, to contextual variables. Stress is one such variable, but its effects and mechanism of action are poorly understood. The current study measured the effects of a stress induction task on tic frequencies during periods of suppression and non-suppression of tics. Ten youth with TS between the ages of 9 and 17 were exposed to four conditions in random sequence: free-to-tic baseline (BL), reinforced tic suppression (SUP), reinforced tic suppression plus a stress induction task (SUP + STRESS), and a stress induction task alone (STRESS). Tic frequencies did not differ during STRESS and BL. Tic frequencies were greater in SUP + STRESS than SUP. Stress may impact tics through disrupting suppression efforts. Clinically, results suggest that interventions designed to improve tic inhibition in the presence of acute stressors may be beneficial.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part by an American Psychology Foundation COGDOP Graduate Research Scholarship. We would like to thank the participants and their families for their assistance. We would also like to thank Rachel Rebitski and Katie Kaldova for their work on this project.
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