While there are drugs and other therapies available for people with Tourette syndrome, many patients don’t respond to these options and continue producing random movements and sending shout outs, often of an unwelcome nature. Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have been studying thalamic deep brain stimulation for the last few years to potentially offer it as a new treatment option for those with refractory Tourette syndrome. The investigators have now published a study in Journal of Neurosurgery that involved 13 young adult patients (16 to 33 years old) that received deep brain stimulators that target the medial thalamus, a part of the brain responsible for tasks such as managing signals involved in motor function.

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They showed that the deep brain stimulation is both safe and effective, achieving a 37% decrease in “tics,” or involuntary movements or vocal outbursts, soon after implantation, and the number rising to about 50% at the end of the study. Two patients had to have additional surgeries due to problems with the stimulators, but all subjects who began the study continue using the implants. Moreover, all the patients participating in the study, including the two that received additional surgeries, said that they would choose the surgery again if they had too.

This is a major development for those with refractory Tourette syndrome and may soon lead to the FDA approving this therapy option.

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