The impact of a stress induction task on tic frequencies in youth with Tourette Syndrome
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a childhood-onset neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by motor and vocal tics. Fluctuations in tics are common but poorly understood, leading researchers to become increasingly interested in identifying variables that may impact tic expression. Stress is frequently implicated as a variable responsible for fluctuations in tics. Although survey and correlational research support the notion that stress is associated with increases in tic frequency, this idea has never been tested experimentally in youth with TS. In addition, research has not yet addressed the possibility that stress may impact tics by disrupting attempts at tic suppression. The proposed study aimed to examine the relationship between tics and stress in a sample of youth with TS by measuring the effects of a stress induction task on tic frequencies during periods of suppression and non-suppression. Ten youth between the ages of 9 and 17 were recruited. A repeated measures design was used to compare tic frequencies in 4 conditions: 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). It was hypothesized that a) youth would have higher tic frequencies during STRESS than BL, and that b) youth will have higher tic frequencies during SUP+STRESS than SUP. Group analyses revealed no significant difference in tic frequencies during STRESS and BL, and single subject analyses indicated that STRESS was associated increased tics in only two participants, suggesting that stress may not be associated with increased tic frequencies. Group analyses revealed higher tic frequencies in SUP+STRESS than SUP, suggesting that stress may disrupt tic suppression efforts. Although this finding was significant at the group level, this pattern was less robust in single subject analyses and was clearly demonstrated in only one participant. Overall, results suggest that stress may impact tics not by increasing tic frequencies but by disrupting suppression efforts.
0622: Clinical psychology
0623: Experimental psychology