Tourette Syndrome and Developmental Disabilities

Presenter: Lawrence W. Brown, MD

View the webinar’s corresponding slide presentation here
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Dr. Brown defined what Developmental Disabilities were and discussed the prevalence of them as related to Tourette. He spoke about different neurodevelopmental conditions and how they disturbed the same brain networks in the growing child disrupt the as affected in primary Tourette syndrome.


  1. NJCTS says:

    Thanks– the webinar was great.
    My ADHD/TS son recently went for scuba cert and had to have a pulmonologist sign off due to asthma history. When he saw my son’s neck size, they discussed snoring and dr suggeted a sleep study. Results came back with severe obstructive apnea (waking 92 times per hour in some cases) as well as central sleep apnea (brain malfunction rather than throat obstruction.) The dr suggested that some of his symptoms could possibly be caused by apnea rather than ADHD. Perhaps a question for a grad student study to explore? Does lack of sleep exacerbate both focus and tics?

  2. NJCTS says:

    Has any research been done recently on sleep apnea and Tourettes/ADHD?

    • Dr. Brown says:

      I am unaware of any specific research on the connection, but I wouldn’t be surprised since sleep apnea is generally so common, and several of the more common medications used for TS are associated with weight gain which is so important in bringing out apnea. These include risperidone and aripripazole (Risperdal and Abilify).

  3. NJCTS says:

    Do you know of any studies done related to TS and twins?

    • Dr. Brown says:

      Yes, this has been of interest for many years and there is definitely research that points both to the importance of genetics as well as environment. Identical twins are far more likely to share the diagnosis, even more than fraternal twins, suggesting the importance of genetic component. However, the smaller and more medically vulnerable twin in the nursery is much more at risk for either showing TS when the other does not, or having a more severe degree of involvement. This points to the effects of environment. The work has also been extended to demonstrate changes on MRI that correlate with degree of tic disorder.

  4. NJCTS says:

    How would you advise an adult who now realizes he must have had undiagnosed TS as a kid. He now is seeing tics in his son and questions the severity or similarity to his experiences.

    • Dr. Brown says:

      It is not unusual for tics to have gone unrecognized or never brought to medical attention. Less commonly, adults forget mild mannerisms in childhood, or have accepted the explanation of “dry eyes”, “allergies” or “habit”. The good news is that such a parent can be a wonderful role model for his or her child. It does not matter whether tics (and associated co-morbid conditions) were identified and treated in the parent – but if he or she has done well it can give hope, and even if tics persist the parent can help the child to be resilient and to get the support than can minimize any potential disability from the condition.

  5. NJCTS says:

    Would discuss tic suppression. The family seems to think my daughter should be able to suppress tics all the time, for long periods of time

    • Dr. Brown says:

      I think of suppressing tics like the dutch boy with his finger in the dike – it may be possible to hold back the tics for a while, but the pressure is building up. We often hear that the teacher never sees or hears tics at school, but they explode once the child comes home. Not everyone can restrain the impulse indefinitely, and some people cannot restrain them at all. In recent years cognitive behavior therapy has helped those children and adults capable of awareness of premonitory urges with the motivation to work with the therapist to better control tics. Any goal of complete suppression is unreasonable and unrealistic, however. It is my more modest goal of reducing the tics so that she will be the girl with occasional tics that do not interfere with her quality of life, and not the girl with tics who cannot control them.