Recent Submissions

  • Exploring social support in an online support community for tourette syndrome and tic disorders: Analysis of postings

    Davies, E. Bethan (2022)
    Background: Online support communities have become an accessible way of gaining social, emotional, and informational support from peers and may be particularly useful for individuals with chronic conditions. To date, there have been few studies exploring the online support available for tic disorders, such as Tourette syndrome. An exploratory study looking at users’ experiences with using online support communities for tic disorders suggested that members used such communities to share experiences, information, and strategies for tic management. Objective: To build on these preliminary findings, this study examined the provision of social support in an online community for Tourette syndrome. Methods: Data were collected from one publicly available online support community for Tourette syndrome and tics, from its inception to December 2019, by randomly selecting 10% of posts and their corresponding comments from each year for analysis. This resulted in 510 unique posts and 3802 comments posted from 1270 unique usernames. The data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: The findings of this study suggest that users utilized the online community as a multifaceted virtual place where they could share and ask for information about tics, unload and share their feelings arising from living with Tourette syndrome, find people facing similar situations and experiences, and freely share the realities of living with Tourette syndrome. Conclusions: The results complement the findings from a preliminary study and suggest that online support communities have a potentially valuable role as a mechanism for sharing and gaining information on illness experiences from similar peers experiencing tics and can promote self-management of tics. Limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.
  • Online remote behavioural intervention for tics in 9- to 17-year-olds: The ORBIT RCT with embedded process and economic evaluation

    Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Khan, Kareem; Brown, Beverley J.; Chamberlain, Liam R.; McKenzie, Caitlin; Kilgariff, Joseph; Glazebrook, Cris (2023)
    BACKGROUND: Behavioural therapy for tics is difficult to access, and little is known about its effectiveness when delivered online. OBJECTIVE: To investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of an online-delivered, therapist- and parent-supported therapy for young people with tic disorders. DESIGN: Single-blind, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial, with 3-month (primary end point) and 6-month post-randomisation follow-up. Participants were individually randomised (1 : 1), using on online system, with block randomisations, stratified by site. Naturalistic follow-up was conducted at 12 and 18 months post-randomisation when participants were free to access non-trial interventions. A subset of participants participated in a process evaluation. SETTING: Two hospitals (London and Nottingham) in England also accepting referrals from patient identification centres and online self-referrals. PARTICIPANTS: Children aged 9-17 years (1) with Tourette syndrome or chronic tic disorder, (2) with a Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-total tic severity score of 15 or more (or > 10 with only motor or vocal tics) and (3) having not received behavioural therapy for tics in the past 12 months or started/stopped medication for tics within the past 2 months. INTERVENTIONS: Either 10 weeks of online, remotely delivered, therapist-supported exposure and response prevention therapy (intervention group) or online psychoeducation (control). OUTCOME: Primary outcome: Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-total tic severity score 3 months post-randomisation; analysis done in all randomised patients for whom data were available. Secondary outcomes included low mood, anxiety, treatment satisfaction and health resource use. Quality-adjusted life-years are derived from parent-completed quality-of-life measures. All trial staff, statisticians and the chief investigator were masked to group allocation. RESULTS: Two hundred and twenty-four participants were randomised to the intervention (n = 112) or control (n = 112) group. Participants were mostly male (n = 177; 79%), with a mean age of 12 years. At 3 months the estimated mean difference in Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-total tic severity score between the groups adjusted for baseline and site was -2.29 points (95% confidence interval -3.86 to -0.71) in favour of therapy (effect size -0.31, 95% confidence interval -0.52 to -0.10). This effect was sustained throughout to the final follow-up at 18 months (-2.01 points, 95% confidence interval -3.86 to -0.15; effect size -0.27, 95% confidence interval -0.52 to -0.02). At 18 months the mean incremental cost per participant of the intervention compared to the control was £662 (95% confidence interval -£59 to £1384), with a mean incremental quality-adjusted life-year of 0.040 (95% confidence interval -0.004 to 0.083) per participant. The mean incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained was £16,708. The intervention was acceptable and delivered with high fidelity. Parental engagement predicted child engagement and more positive clinical outcomes. HARMS: Two serious, unrelated adverse events occurred in the control group. LIMITATIONS: We cannot separate the effects of digital online delivery and the therapy itself. The sample was predominately white and British, limiting generalisability. The design did not compare to face-to-face services. CONCLUSION: Online, therapist-supported behavioural therapy for young people with tic disorders is clinically and cost-effective in reducing tics, with durable benefits extending up to 18 months. FUTURE WORK: Future work should compare online to face-to-face therapy and explore how to embed the intervention in clinical practice. TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial is registered as ISRCTN70758207; (NCT03483493). The trial is now complete. FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health and Technology Assessment programme (project number 16/19/02) and will be published in full in Health and Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 18. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information. It can be difficult for children and young people with tics to access therapy. This is because there are not enough trained tic therapists. Online remote behavioural intervention for tics was a clinical trial to see whether an online platform that delivered two different types of interventions could help tics. One intervention focused on techniques to control tics; this type of therapy is called exposure and response prevention. The other intervention was psychoeducation, where participants learned about the nature of tics but not how to control them. The online remote behavioural intervention for tics interventions also involved help from a therapist and support from a parent. Participants were aged 9–17 years with Tourette syndrome/chronic tic disorder and were recruited from 16 clinics, two study sites (Nottingham and London) or via online self-referral. All individuals who were eligible for the online remote behavioural intervention for tics trial were randomised in a 50/50 split by researchers who were unaware of which treatment was being given. Participants received either 10 weeks of online exposure and response prevention or 10 weeks of online psychoeducation. A total of 224 children and young people participated: 112 allocated to exposure and response prevention and 112 to psychoeducation. Tics decreased more in the exposure and response prevention group (16% reduction) than in the psychoeducation group (6% reduction) 3 months after treatment. This difference is considered a clinically important difference in tic reduction. The treatment continued to have a positive effect on tic symptoms at 6, 12 and 18 months, showing that the effects are durable. This was achieved with minimal therapist involvement. The cost of online exposure and response prevention to treat young people with tics within this study was less when compared to the cost of face-to-face therapy. The results show that exposure and response prevention is an effective behavioural therapy for tics in this specific patient group. Delivering exposure and response prevention online with minimal therapist contact can be a successful and cost-effective treatment to improve access to behavioural therapy.
  • A double-blind, sham-controlled, trial of home-administered rhythmic 10-Hz median nerve stimulation for the reduction of tics, and suppression of the urge-to-tic, in individuals with Tourette syndrome and chronic tic disorder

    Jackson, Georgina M.; Jackson, Stephen R. (2023)
    Tourette syndrome (TS) and chronic tic disorder (CTD) are neurological disorders of childhood onset characterized by the occurrence of tics; repetitive, purposeless, movements or vocalizations of short duration which can occur many times throughout a day. Currently, effective treatment for tic disorders is an area of considerable unmet clinical need. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy of a home-administered neuromodulation treatment for tics involving the delivery of rhythmic pulse trains of median nerve stimulation (MNS) delivered via a wearable 'watch-like' device worn at the wrist. We conducted a UK-wide parallel double-blind sham-controlled trial for the reduction of tics in individuals with tic disorder. The device was programmed to deliver rhythmic (10 Hz) trains of low-intensity (1-19 mA) electrical stimulation to the median nerve for a pre-determined duration each day, and was intended to be used by each participant in their home once each day, 5 days each week, for a period of 4 weeks. Between 18th March 2022 and 26th September 2022, 135 participants (45 per group) were initially allocated, using stratified randomization, to one of the following groups; active stimulation; sham stimulation or to a waitlist (i.e. treatment as usual) control group. Recruited participants were individuals with confirmed or suspected TS/CTD aged 12 years of age or upward with moderate to severe tics. Researchers involved in the collection or processing of measurement outcomes and assessing the outcomes, as well as participants in the active and sham groups and their legal guardians were all blind to the group allocation. The primary outcome measure used to assess the 'offline' or treatment effect of stimulation was the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale-Total Tic Severity Score (YGTSS-TTSS) assessed at the conclusion of 4 weeks of stimulation. The primary outcome measure used to assess the 'online' effects of stimulation was tic frequency, measured as the number of tics per minute (TPM) observed, based upon blind analysis of daily video recordings obtained while stimulation was delivered. The results demonstrated that after 4-week stimulation, tic severity (YGTSS-TTSS) had reduced by 7.1 points (35 percentile reduction) for the active stimulation group compared to 2.13/2.11 points for the sham stimulation and waitlist control groups. The reduction in YGTSS-TTSS for the active stimulation group was substantially larger, clinically meaningful (effect size = .5) and statistically significant (p = .02) compared to both the sham stimulation and waitlist control groups, which did not differ from one another (effect size = -.03). Furthermore, blind analyses of video recordings demonstrated that tic frequency (tics per minute) reduced substantially (-15.6 TPM) during active stimulation compared to sham stimulation (-7.7 TPM). This difference represents a statistically significant (p < .03) and clinically meaningful reduction in tic frequency (>25 percentile reduction: effect size = .3). These findings indicate that home-administered rhythmic MNS delivered through a wearable wrist-worn device has the potential to be an effective community-based treatment for tic disorders.
  • Long-term clinical and cost-effectiveness of a therapist-supported online remote behavioural intervention for tics in children and adolescents: Extended 12- and 18-month follow-up of a single-blind randomised controlled trial

    Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Khan, Kareem; Brown, Beverley J.; Chamberlain, Liam R.; Davies, E. Bethan; McKenzie, Caitlin; Kilgariff, Joseph; Glazebrook, Cris (2023)
    Background Little is known about the long-term effectiveness of behavioural therapy for tics. We aimed to assess the long-term clinical and cost-effectiveness of online therapist-supported exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy for tics 12 and 18 months after treatment initiation. Methods ORBIT (online remote behavioural intervention for tics) was a two-arm (1:1 ratio), superiority, single-blind, multicentre randomised controlled trial comparing online ERP for tics with online psychoeducation. The trial was conducted across two Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in England. Participants were recruited from these two sites, across other clinics in England, or by self-referral. This study was a naturalistic follow-up of participants at 12- and 18-month postrandomisation. Participants were permitted to use alternative treatments recommended by their clinician. The key outcome was the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale Total Tic Severity Score (YGTSS-TTSS). A full economic evaluation was conducted. Registrations are ISRCTN (ISRCTN70758207); (NCT03483493). Results Two hundred and twenty-four participants were enrolled: 112 to ERP and 112 to psychoeducation. The sample was predominately male (177; 79%) and of white ethnicity (195; 87%). The ERP intervention reduced baseline YGTSS-TTSS by 2.64 points (95% CI: ?4.48 to ?0.79) with an effect size of ?0.36 (95% CI: ?0.61 to ?0.11) after 12?months and by 2.01 points (95% CI: ?3.86 to ?0.15) with an effect size of ?0.27 (95% CI -0.52 to ?0.02) after 18?months, compared with psychoeducation. Very few participants (<10%) started new tic treatment during follow-up. The cost difference in ERP compared with psychoeducation was £304.94 (?139.41 to 749.29). At 18?months, the cost per QALY gained was £16,708 for ERP compared with psychoeducation. Conclusions Remotely delivered online ERP is a clinical and cost-effective intervention with durable benefits extending for up to 18?months. This represents an efficient public mental health approach to increase access to behavioural therapy and improve outcomes for tics.
  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on incidence of tics in children and young people: a population-based cohort study

    Hall, Charlotte L.; Hollis, Chris P. (2023)
    BACKGROUND: Since the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, clinicians have reported an increase in presentations of sudden and new onset tics particularly affecting teenage girls. This population-based study aimed to describe and compare the incidence of tics in children and young people in primary care before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in England. METHODS: We used information from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) Aurum dataset and included males and females aged 4-11 years and 12-18 years between Jan 1, 2015, and Dec 31, 2021. We grouped the pre-pandemic period (2015-2019) and presented the pandemic years (2020, 2021) separately. We described the characteristics of children and young people with a first record of a motor or vocal tic in each time period. Incidence rates of tics by age-sex groups in 2015-2019, 2020, and 2021 were calculated. Negative binomial regression models were used to calculate incidence rate ratios. FINDINGS: We included 3,867,709 males and females aged 4-18 years. Over 14,734,062 person-years of follow-up, 11,245 people had a first tic record during the whole study period. The characteristics of people with tics differed over time, with the proportion of females aged 12-18 years and the proportion with mental health conditions including anxiety increasing during the pandemic. Tic incidence rates per 10,000 person-years were highest for 4-11-year-old males in all three time periods (13.4 [95% confidence interval 13.0-13.8] in 2015-2019; 13.2 [12.3-14.1] in 2020; 15.1 [14.1-16.1] in 2021) but increased markedly during the pandemic in 12-18-year-old females, from 2.5 (2.3-2.7) in 2015-2019, to 10.3 (9.5-11.3) in 2020 and 13.1 (12.1-14.1) in 2021. There were smaller increases in incidence rates in 12-18-year-old males (4.6 [4.4-4.9] in 2015-2019; 4.7 [4.1-5.3] in 2020; 6.2 [5.5-6.9] in 2021) and 4-11-year-old females (4.9 [4.7-5.2] in 2015-2019; 5.7 [5.1-6.4] in 2020; 7.6 [6.9-8.3] in 2021). Incidence rate ratios comparing 2020 and 2021 with 2015-2019 were highest in the 12-18-year-old female subgroup (4.2 [3.6-4.8] in 2020; 5.3 [4.7-6.0] in 2021). INTERPRETATION: The incidence of tics in children and young people increased across all age and sex groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a differentially large effect in teenage girls (a greater than four-fold increase). Furthermore, in those with tic symptoms, proportions with mental health disorders including anxiety increased during the pandemic. Further research is required on the social and contextual factors underpinning this rise in onset of tics in teenage girls. FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.
  • Therapist-supported internet-delivered exposure and response prevention for children and adolescents with Tourette syndrome: A randomized clinical trial

    Hall, Charlotte L.; Davies, E. Bethan; Hollis, Chris P. (2022)
    The availability of behavior therapy for individuals with Tourette syndrome (TS) and chronic tic disorder (CTD) is limited.To determine the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of internet-delivered exposure and response prevention (ERP) for children and adolescents with TS or CTD.This single-masked, parallel group, superiority randomized clinical trial with nationwide recruitment was conducted at a research clinic in Stockholm, Sweden. Out of 615 individuals assessed for eligibility, 221 participants meeting diagnostic criteria for TS or CTD and aged 9 to 17 years were included in the study. Enrollment began in April 2019 and ended in April 2021. Data were analyzed between October 2021 and March 2022.Participants were randomized to 10 weeks of therapist-supported internet-delivered ERP for tics (111 participants) or to therapist-supported internet-delivered education for tics (comparator group, 110 participants).The primary outcome was change in tic severity from baseline to the 3-month follow-up as measured by the Total Tic Severity Score of the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS-TTSS). YGTSS-TTSS assessors were masked to treatment allocation. Treatment response was operationalized as a score of 1 (“Very much improved”) or 2 (“Much improved”) on the Clinical Global Impression–Improvement scale.Data loss was minimal, with 216 of 221 participants (97.7%) providing primary outcome data. Among randomized participants (152 [68.8%] boys; mean [SD] age, 12.1 [2.3] years), tic severity improved significantly, with a mean reduction of 6.08 points on the YGTSS-TTSS in the ERP group (mean [SD] at baseline, 22.25 [5.60]; at 3-month follow-up, 16.17 [6.82]) and 5.29 in the comparator (mean [SD] at baseline, 23.01 [5.92]; at 3-month follow-up, 17.72 [7.11]). Intention-to-treat analyses showed that the 2 groups improved similarly over time (interaction effect, −0.53; 95% CI, −1.28 to 0.22; P = .17). Significantly more participants were classified as treatment responders in the ERP group (51 of 108 [47.2%]) than in the comparator group (31 of 108 [28.7%]) at the 3-month follow-up (odds ratio, 2.22; 95% CI, 1.27 to 3.90). ERP resulted in more treatment responders at little additional cost compared with structured education. The incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained was below the Swedish willingness-to-pay threshold, at which ERP had a 66% to 76% probability of being cost-effective.Both interventions were associated with clinically meaningful improvements in tic severity, but ERP led to higher response rates at little additional identifier: NCT03916055
  • "I'm in pain and I want help": An online survey investigating the experiences of tic-related pain and use of pain management techniques in people with tics and tic disorders

    Davies, E. Bethan (2022)
    OBJECTIVES: Tic disorders (TDs) are complex neurological conditions characterized by involuntary, persistent vocalizations and motor movements called tics. Tics involve brief muscle movements and can impair many aspects of daily functioning and quality of life in patients - and their physical nature can cause pain. Understanding individuals' experiences of tic-related pain and pain management could help explore this under-researched area and identify additional support needs for this population. The aim of this study was to investigate experiences of pain and use of pain management techniques in people with tic disorders. METHODS: An online survey consisting of multiple choice and open-ended questions exploring experiences of tic-related pain, help-seeking behavior for tic-related pain, and use of pain relief techniques for tic-related pain, was circulated online via international Tourette syndrome patient associations, and one online support group for Tourette syndrome. The online survey was open to adults (≥16 years) with self-reported tics. Open-ended questions were analyzed using thematic analysis. RESULTS: One hundred eighty-one participants (16-71 years; 58.0% female) from 18 countries completed the online survey. Several aspects of tics were associated with pain, including the physical effort of motor tics (n = 177, 97.8%), repetitive tics (n = 141, 77.9%) and the consequences of tics (n = 131, 72.4%). Nearly two-thirds (n = 118, 64.6%) had sought professional help for tic-related pain. Distraction techniques (n = 126, 69.6%), taking pain relief medication (n = 125, 69.1%) and altering tics (n = 111, 61.3%) were the most commonly-reported methods used to relieve and cope with tic-related pain. Thematic analysis found an interrelated complex relationship between participants' tics, pain, and pain management techniques, reflected in four themes: the "tic-pain" cycle, the impact of pain, the importance of support, and the perceived successfulness of pain management techniques. CONCLUSIONS: Tic-related pain was reported to have a significant physical and psychological impact which impacted aspects of daily living in people with tic disorders. The findings add to limited research suggesting tic-related pain is a dominant issue for individuals with tic disorders, potentially impacting upon their quality of life. Increased understanding of tic-related pain and its influence may be helpful in the long-term management of tic disorders, both in terms of clinical management and patients' self-management.
  • A call for caution: 'stop that' sentiments threaten tic research, healthcare and advocacy

    Davies, E. Bethan (2022)
    Recent reports from Tourette syndrome clinical researchers in North America and Europe1,2 describe a recent increase in young patients presenting to Tourette syndrome clinics. Reported commonalities in clinical presentation include a female preponderance, older age of first detected symptoms, complex behaviours (e.g. phrases, coprolalia, long/sequenced movements), significant functional impairment, and similarities to behaviours recorded in videos on social media platforms, notably TikTok. This has raised important questions about aetiology and how to best diagnose and treat these individuals. In their recent Brain paper, Müller-Vahl et al.3 postulated that this phenomenon is a ‘mass sociogenic illness.’ The function of this assertion could be to caution clinicians and patients against using interventions contraindicated for those with functional movement disorder (FMD). However, this postulate does not follow neatly from the current state of the evidence, and the rhetorical language used risks negatively impacting patients by implying that these symptoms are ‘attention seeking’ behaviours. In this response, written by a group of Tourette syndrome researchers, clinicians, and individuals with tics, we detail concerns with the paper.
  • Digital and remote behavioral therapies for treating tic disorders: Recent advances and next steps

    Khan, Kareem; Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L. (2022)
    The rapid expansion of access to and engagement with digital technology over the past 15 years has transformed the potential for remote delivery of evidence-based digital health interventions (DHIs). Digital and remote behavioral interventions have the potential to address current gaps in the provision of evidence-based therapies in healthcare services. As the lack of access to behavioral treatments for people with tic disorders is a pressing issue across the world, there is great potential for DHIs to close this treatment gap. Here, we present a critical synthesis of the recent key advances in the field of digitally delivered, remote therapy for tics, outlining the research evidence for the clinical and cost-effectiveness and acceptability of digital or remotely delivered therapy. We found five trials aimed at reducing tic severity in children and young people and one trial for adults. The evidence supports the clinical utility of DHIs to deliver tic therapies, which shows promise in being clinically efficacious compared to an active control. Furthermore, DHIs in trials show good adherence and engagement and are acceptable to patients. The role of human support (including therapists and parents for young people) is likely to be important to encourage adherence. DHIs, where the main therapeutic content is delivered via web-based chapters, are likely to reduce clinical time, and maintain intervention fidelity, but further research is required to understand cost-effectiveness. Despite utilizing randomized controlled trials, only two trials were sufficiently powered to address efficacy and only one trial explored contextual factors that may influence engagement. Moreover, only one trial followed patients for >12 months, thus further long-term follow-ups are required. Specifically, we note that despite an emerging evidence base, DHIs for tics are yet to be routinely implemented in healthcare provision in any country. Drawing on the existing evidence, we conclude by proposing a stepped care model, in which digital therapy is implemented as a widely accessible first-line treatment using a purely online or therapist-supported approach.
  • Factors influencing the efficacy of an online behavioural intervention for children and young people with tics: Process evaluation of a randomised controlled trial

    Khan, Kareem; Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Davies, E. Bethan; Glazebrook, Cris (2022)
    The Online Remote Behavioural Intervention for Tics (ORBIT) trial found that an internet-delivered, therapist-supported, and parent-assisted Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) intervention reduced tic severity and improved clinical outcomes. This process evaluation aimed to explore mechanisms of impact and factors influencing efficacy. Participants were 112 children with a tic disorder and their parents randomised to the active intervention arm of the ORBIT trial. Child engagement was assessed by usage metrics and parent engagement by chapter completion. Experiences of the digital intervention were explored by semi-structured interviews. Outcomes (3-months post randomisation) were change in tic severity and overall clinical improvement. Tic severity reduced from baseline to 3-month follow-up and 36% were rated as much improved clinically. Greater tic severity at baseline predicted reduction in tic severity. Parental engagement was the only independent predictor of clinical improvement. There were no statistically significant mediators or moderators of the relationship between level of child engagement and outcome. From the qualitative findings, child participants appreciated working together with parents on the intervention and participants found the intervention engaging. ORBIT may be an effective and acceptable intervention for children and young people with tic disorders, with parental engagement being a key factor in successful outcomes.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on tic symptoms in children and young people: A prospective cohort study

    Hall, Charlotte L.; Khan, Kareem; Brown, Beverley J.; Hollis, Chris P. (2022)
    To understand how children and young people with tic disorders were affected by COVID-19, we compared pre and during pandemic scores on the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS). Participants were young people (N = 112; male:78%; 9–17 years) randomised to the control arm of the “ORBIT-Trial” (ISRCTN70758207, For this analysis, the control arm was split into two groups: one group was followed up to 12-months’ post-randomisation before the pandemic started (pre-COVID group, n = 44); the other group was impacted by the pandemic at the 12-month follow-up (during-COVID group, n = 47). Mixed effects linear regression modelling was conducted to explore differences in YGTSS at 6- and 12-months post-randomisation. There were no significant differences in tic symptom or severity between participants who were assessed before and during COVID-19. This finding was not influenced by age, gender, symptoms of anxiety or autism spectrum disorder. Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic did not significantly impact existing tic symptoms. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved) (Source: journal abstract)
  • Non-invasive brain stimulation as therapy: systematic review and recommendations with a focus on the treatment of Tourette syndrome

    Jackson, Georgina M.; Jackson, Stephen R. (2021)
    Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by tics, which are stereotyped movements and/or vocalisations. Tics often cause difficulties in daily life and many with TS express a desire to reduce and/or gain control over them. No singular effective treatment exists for TS, and while pharmacological and behavioural interventions can be effective, the results are variable, and issues relating to access, availability and side effects can be barriers to treatment. Consequently, over the past decade, there has been increasing interest into the potential benefits of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) approaches. This systematic review highlights work exploring NIBS as a potential treatment for TS. On balance, the results tentatively suggest that multiple sessions of stimulation applied over the supplementary motor area (SMA) may help to reduce tics. However, a number of methodological and theoretical issues limit the strength of this conclusion, with the most problematic being the lack of large-scale sham-controlled studies. In this review, methodological and theoretical issues are discussed, unanswered questions highlighted and suggestions for future work put forward.
  • Efficacy and cost-effectiveness of therapist-guided internet-delivered behaviour therapy for children and adolescents with Tourette syndrome: study protocol for a single-blind randomised controlled trial

    Hall, Charlotte L.; Davies, E. Bethan; Hollis, Chris P. (2021)
    BACKGROUNDTreatment guidelines recommend behaviour therapy (BT) for patients with Tourette syndrome (TS) and chronic tic disorder (CTD). However, BT is rarely accessible due to limited availability of trained therapists and long travel distances to specialist clinics. Internet-delivered BT has the potential of overcoming these barriers through remote delivery of treatment with minimal therapist support. In the current protocol, we outline the design and methods of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) evaluating an internet-delivered BT programme referred to as BIP TIC. The trial's primary objective is to determine the clinical efficacy of BIP TIC for reducing tic severity in young people with TS/CTD, compared with an active control intervention. Secondary objectives are to investigate the 12-month durability of the treatment effects and to perform a health economic evaluation of the intervention.METHODSIn this single-blind superiority RCT, 220 participants (9-17 years) with TS/CTD throughout Sweden will be randomised to 10-12 weeks of either therapist-supported internet-delivered BT based on exposure with response prevention (BIP TIC) or therapist-supported internet-delivered education. Data will be collected at baseline, 3 and 5 weeks into the treatment, at post-treatment, and 3, 6, and 12 months post-treatment. The primary endpoint is the 3-month follow-up. The primary outcome is tic severity as measured by the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale - Total Tic Severity Score. Treatment response is operationalised as scores of "Very much improved" or "Much improved" on the Clinical Global Impression - Improvement scale, administered at the primary endpoint. Outcome assessors will be blind to treatment condition at all assessment points. A health economic evaluation of BIP TIC will be performed, both in the short term (primary endpoint) and the long term (12-month follow-up). There are no planned interim analyses.DISCUSSIONParticipant recruitment started on 26 April 2019 and finished on 9 April 2021. The total number of included participants was 221. The final participant is expected to reach the primary endpoint in September 2021 and the 12-month follow-up in June 2022. Data analysis for the primary objective will commence after the last participant reaches the primary endpoint.TRIAL NCT03916055 . Registered on 16 April 2019.
  • Therapist-supported online remote behavioural intervention for tics in children and adolescents in England (ORBIT): a multicentre, parallel group, single-blind, randomised controlled trial

    Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Brown, Beverley J.; Chamberlain, Liam R.; Davies, E. Bethan; McKenzie, Caitlin; Khan, Kareem; Kilgariff, Joseph; Glazebrook, Cris (2021)
    Background: Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) for tics appears a promising form of behaviour therapy for online delivery which could widen access to treatment. However, the effectiveness of ERP in general, and in particular when delivered online, remains uncertain. We evaluated the effectiveness of internet-delivered, therapist-supported and parent-assisted ERP for tics. Methods: Multi-centre, parallel group, single-blind, randomised controlled trial. Eligible participants were aged 9-17 years with Tourette syndrome/chronic tic disorder, who had not received behaviour therapy for tics within 12 months, and had a Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) Total Tic Severity Score (TTSS) of >15, or >10 if motor or vocal tics only. Participants were recruited via 16 patient identification centres, two study sites in England (Nottingham and London), or online self-referral, and were randomised (1:1) by blinded outcome-assessors to receive either 10 weeks of ERP or psychoeducation (active control). The primary outcome was YGTSS-TTSS at 3 months’ post-randomisation, analysis was by intention-to-treat. The mean cost per patient for the intervention were calculated. Longer term follow-ups are still on-going. Registrations are ISRCTN (ISRCTN70758207) and (NCT03483493). Findings: Between 8th May 2018 and 30th September 2019, 224 participants were enrolled; 112 to ERP and 112 to psychoeducation. The sample was predominately male (177; 79%) and of white ethnicity (195; 87%). The difference between the groups on the YGTSS-TTSS was -2.29 points (95% CI: -3.86 to -0.71), a reduction favouring the ERP intervention at 3 months, an effect that increased by 6 months post-randomisation (-2.64, 95% CI: -4.56 to -0.73). The average therapist time spent supporting the intervention was 2.5 hours. The additional cost per participant of the ERP intervention compared to psychoeducation was £159 (95% CI -£53 to £370). There were two unrelated serious adverse events, both in the psychoeducation group. Interpretation: ERP is an effective behavioural therapy for tics. Digitally enabled ERP with minimal therapist contact time represents an efficient public mental health approach to improve access to behavioural therapy for tics in children and adolescents.
  • Fidelity of delivery and contextual factors influencing children's level of engagement: Process evaluation of the online remote behavioral intervention for tics trial

    Khan, Kareem; Hollis, Chris P.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Davies, E. Bethan; Glazebrook, Cris (2021)
    Background: The Online Remote Behavioral Intervention for Tics (ORBIT) study was a multicenter randomized controlled trial of a complex intervention that consisted of a web-based behavioral intervention for children and young people with tic disorders. In the first part of a two-stage process evaluation, we conducted a mixed methods study exploring the reach, dose, and fidelity of the intervention and contextual factors influencing engagement. Objective: This study aims to explore the fidelity of delivery and contextual factors underpinning the ORBIT trial. Methods: Baseline study data and intervention usage metrics from participants in the intervention arm were used as quantitative implementation data (N=112). The experiences of being in the intervention were explored through semistructured interviews with children (n=20) and parent participants (n=20), therapists (n=4), and referring clinicians (n=6). A principal component analysis was used to create a comprehensive, composite measure of children and young people’s engagement with the intervention. Engagement factor scores reflected relative uptake as assessed by a range of usage indices, including chapters accessed, number of pages visited, and number of log-ins. The engagement factor score was used as the dependent variable in a multiple linear regression analysis with various contextual variables as independent variables to assess if there were any significant predictors of engagement. Results: The intervention was implemented with high fidelity, and participants deemed the intervention acceptable and satisfactory. The engagement was high, with child participants completing an average of 7.5 of 10 (SD 2.7) chapters, and 88.4% (99/112) of participants completed the minimum of the first four chapters—the predefined threshold effective dose. Compared with the total population of children with tic disorders, participants in the sample tended to have more educated parents and lived in more economically advantaged areas; however, socioeconomic factors were not related to engagement factor scores. Factors associated with higher engagement factor scores included participants enrolled at the London site versus the Nottingham site (P=.01), self-referred versus clinic referred (P=.04), higher parental engagement as evidenced by the number of parental chapters completed (n=111; ρ=0.73; P<.001), and more therapist time for parents (n=111; ρ=0.46; P<.001). A multiple linear regression indicated that parents’ chapter completion (β=.69; t110=10.18; P<.001) and therapist time for parents (β=.19; t110=2.95; P=.004) were the only significant independent predictors of child engagement factor scores. Conclusions: Overall, the intervention had high fidelity of delivery and was evaluated positively by participants, although reach may have been constrained by the nature of the randomized controlled trial. Parental engagement and therapist time for parents were strong predictors of intervention implementation, which has important implications for designing and implementing digital therapeutic interventions in child and adolescent mental health services.
  • The role of the cingulate cortex in the generation of motor tics and the experience of the premonitory urge-to-tic in Tourette syndrome

    Jackson, Stephen R.; Jackson, Georgina M. (2021)
    Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder of childhood onset that is characterized by the occurrence of motor and vocal tics. TS is associated with cortical-striatal-thalamic-cortical circuit [CSTC] dysfunction and hyper-excitability of cortical limbic and motor regions that are thought to lead to the occurrence of tics. Individuals with TS often report that their tics are preceded by 'premonitory sensory/urge phenomena' (PU) that are described as uncomfortable bodily sensations that precede the execution of a tic and are experienced as a strong urge for motor discharge. While the precise role played by PU in the occurrence of tics is largely unknown, they are nonetheless of considerable theoretical and clinical importance as they form a core component of many behavioural therapies used in the treatment of tic disorders. Recent evidence indicates that the cingulate cortex may play an important role in the generation of PU in TS, and in 'urges-for-action' more generally. In the current study, we utilized voxel-based morphometry (VBM) techniques, together with 'seed-to-voxel' structural covariance network (SCN) mapping, to investigate the putative role played by the cingulate cortex in the generation of motor tics and the experience of PU in a relatively large group of young people with TS. Whole-brain VBM analysis revealed that TS was associated with clusters of significantly reduced grey matter volumes bilaterally within: the orbito-frontal cortex; the cerebellum; and the anterior and mid-cingulate cortex. Similarly, analysis of SCNs associated with bilateral mid- and anterior cingulate 'seed' regions demonstrated that TS is associated with increased structural covariance primarily with the bilateral motor cerebellum; the inferior frontal cortex; and the posterior cingulate cortex.
  • Examining the neural antecedents of tics in Tourette syndrome using electroencephalography

    Jackson, Georgina M.; Jackson, Stephen R. (2021)
    Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by the occurrence of motor and vocal tics. TS is associated with cortical-striatal-thalamic-cortical circuit dysfunction and hyper-excitability of cortical limbic and motor regions that lead to the occurrence of tics. Importantly, individuals with TS often report that their tics are preceded by premonitory sensory/urge phenomena (PU) that are described as uncomfortable bodily sensations that precede the execution of a tic and are experienced as an urge for motor discharge. While tics are most often referred to as involuntary movements, it has been argued by some that tics should be viewed as voluntary movements that are executed in response to the presence of PU. To investigate this issue further, we conducted a study using electroencephalography (EEG). We recorded movement-related EEG (mu- and beta-band oscillations) during (1) the immediate period leading up to the execution of voluntary movements by a group of individuals with TS and a group of matched healthy control participants, and (2) the immediate period leading up to the execution of a tic in a group of individuals with TS. We demonstrate that movement-related mu and beta oscillations are not reliably observed prior to tics in individuals with TS. We interpret this effect as reflecting the greater involvement of a network of brain areas, including the insular and cingulate cortices, the basal ganglia and the cerebellum, in the generation of tics in TS. We also show that beta-band desynchronization does occur when individuals with TS initiate voluntary movements, but, in contrast to healthy controls, desynchronization of mu-band oscillations is not observed during the execution of voluntary movements for individuals with TS. We interpret this finding as reflecting a dysfunction of physiological inhibition in TS, thereby contributing to an impaired ability to suppress neuronal populations that may compete with movement preparation processes.
  • Opportunities and challenges of delivering digital clinical trials: lessons learned from a randomised controlled trial of an online behavioural intervention for children and young people

    Hall, Charlotte L.; Brown, Beverley J.; Chamberlain, Liam R.; Davies, E. Bethan; Khan, Kareem; McKenzie, Caitlin; Hollis, Chris P. (2020)
    BACKGROUNDDespite being the gold standard of research to determine effectiveness, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) often struggle with participant recruitment, engagement and retention. These issues may be exacerbated when recruiting vulnerable populations, such as participants with mental health issues. We aimed to update understanding of the scope of these problems in trials of health technology and identify possible solutions through reflecting on experiences from an exemplar trial (Online Remote Behavioural Intervention for Tics; ORBIT).METHODWe extracted anonymised data on recruitment, retention and requests for more funding and time from trials funded by the largest funder of health technology trials in the UK (the National Institute of Health Research Health Technology Assessment) between 2010 and 2020, and compared these with data from a recent, successful trial (ORBIT). ORBIT aimed to assess the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of blended online and human behavioural therapy for tics in young people. Many of the trial procedures, including recruitment, the intervention and data collection, were undertaken online.RESULTSData were extracted on 51 trials conducted between 2010 and 2020. Sixty per cent of trials failed to reach their original recruitment target and only 44% achieved their follow-up in the specified time frame. In contrast, ORBIT recruited to target and achieved 90% follow-up. We posit that these achievements are related to (a) judicious use of digital technology for trial procedures and (b) adequate numbers of highly trained and motivated trial staff. We provide details of both these to help other research teams plan and cost for successful trials.CONCLUSIONAn approach combining human and online methods may be advantageous in facilitating trial delivery, particularly in paediatric mental health services. Given the importance of successful clinical trials in advancing healthcare delivery and the waste of human and economic resources associated with unsuccessfully delivered trials, it is imperative that trials are appropriately costed and future research focusses on improving trial design and delivery.TRIAL REGISTRATIONThe ORBIT trial is registered with ISRTCN ( ISRCTN70758207 ) Registered on March 20, 2018. and ( NCT03483493 ). Registered on March 30, 2018.
  • Using online support communities for Tourette syndrome and tic disorders: Online survey of users' experiences

    Davies, E. Bethan (2020)
    BACKGROUNDPeople living with a tic disorder (TD)-such as Tourette syndrome (TS)-experience many negative psychological and social challenges arising from chronic tics, such as stigmatization from peers and poorer quality of life, and these can impact upon their families too. It can be difficult for this population to access face-to-face support for tics, and so online support communities offer one avenue for support from peers facing similar experiences. However, little is known about how online support communities may be used by people with TS and other TDs, and by others (eg, parents, caregivers) supporting a person with TS/TD.OBJECTIVEThis study aimed to explore users' experiences of participation in online support communities for TS and TDs.METHODSIn total, 90 respondents (aged 13-62 years; 62% [56/90] female) from 13 countries completed an online survey exploring their experiences of using online support communities for TS and TDs. Respondents were people living with TS/TD themselves (n=68) or supportive others of someone with TS/TD (eg, parent, sibling, spouse; n=14), or both (n=8). The online survey contained open-ended questions eliciting their self-reported motivations for using online communities, their benefits and drawbacks of participation, and whether online support communities affected offline management of tics. Responses were analyzed using thematic analysis.RESULTSSeven overarching themes captured experiences of using online support communities for TS/TDs. The overwhelming reason for their use was to find accessible support due to a lack of offline face-to-face support. Online support communities were valued sources of informational and emotional support, and also had a positive impact upon helping users' psychological well-being. Online communities helped provide a space where people with TS/TDs could feel accepted and reduce the social isolation they felt offline. The suggestible nature of tics and being reminded of the challenging nature of TDs were main disadvantages arising from using online support communities, alongside conflict arising within online communities.CONCLUSIONSThe findings suggest that online support communities appear to offer valuable informational and emotional support to those living with TS/TD and their families too, especially given the lack of locally available support. This facilitates a sense of community online, which can help users in overcoming long-standing social isolation and aid self-reported improvements in psychosocial well-being. Users reported some drawbacks in engaging with online support communities, such as conflict between different types of users and triggering content, which negatively affected experiences of community participation.
  • Therapist-supported online interventions for children and young people with tic disorders: Lessons learned from a randomized controlled trial and considerations for future practice

    Chamberlain, Liam R.; Hall, Charlotte L.; Davies, E. Bethan; Kilgariff, Joseph; Hollis, Chris P. (2020)
    In recent years, research into internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) has suggested that therapist-guided digital interventions have greater engagement, adherence, and effectiveness than self-directed digital therapies. While research has focused on the effectiveness of, and adherence to, these interventions, less attention has been paid to their implementation in practice and what aspects of the therapist role support success. An understanding of the key factors related to the therapist role and intervention delivery is required if these iCBTs are to be applied in routine clinical care and outcomes optimized. In light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there is greater emphasis on allowing patients access to remote therapies. We report the experiences and reflections of 4 therapists and their 2 supervisors in delivering an online, therapist-supported intervention in a randomized controlled trial for children and young people with tic disorders (the Online Remote Behavioural Intervention for Tics [ORBIT] trial). Themes discussed include the importance of training, supervision, creating support documents/manuals, and record keeping. Alongside this are communication strategies used by therapists to encourage patient adherence and treatment effectiveness. These include rapport building, treatment personalization, and suggestions for overcoming non-engagement. These reflections offer important considerations for the delivery of iCBTs as well as implications associated with the implementation of these interventions in existing services and future research studies. We share thoughts on where iCBTs may sit in a stepped care model, how services may deal with comorbid conditions, and the potential role of iCBTs in collecting clinical data.

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