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Cognitive & Behavioral Neurology:
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0000000000000019
Original Studies

Biofeedback Treatment for Tourette Syndrome: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial

Nagai, Yoko PhD*; Cavanna, Andrea E. MD, PhD; Critchley, Hugo D. DPhil, FRCPsyc*,‡; Stern, Jeremy J. FRCP§; Robertson, Mary M. MD, FRCPsyc§; Joyce, Eileen M. MD, FRCPsyc

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Objective: To study the clinical effectiveness of biofeedback treatment in reducing tics in patients with Tourette syndrome.

Background: Despite advances in the pharmacologic treatment of patients with Tourette syndrome, many remain troubled by their tics, which may be resistant to multiple medications at tolerable doses. Electrodermal biofeedback is a noninvasive biobehavioral intervention that can be useful in managing neuropsychiatric and neurologic conditions.

Methods: We conducted a randomized controlled trial of electrodermal biofeedback training in 21 patients with Tourette syndrome.

Results: After training the patients for 3 sessions a week over 4 weeks, we observed a significant reduction in tic frequency and improved indices of subjective well-being in both the active-biofeedback and sham-feedback (control) groups, but there was no difference between the groups in these measurements. Furthermore, the active-treatment group did not demonstrably learn to reduce their sympathetic electrodermal tone using biofeedback.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that this form of biofeedback training was unable to produce a clinical effect greater than placebo. The main confounding factor appeared to be the 30-minute duration of the training sessions, which made it difficult for patients to sustain a reduction in sympathetic tone when their tics themselves were generating competing phasic electrodermal arousal responses. Despite a negative finding in this study, electrodermal biofeedback training may have a role in managing tics if optimal training schedules can be identified.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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