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University psychologist to address shortage of treatment for Tourette Syndrome patients

Published: 7 November 2018
Image of Tics Connect logo
Tics Connect will be delivered in partnership with Tourettes Action

A psychologist at the University of Southampton is reaching out to people in the local community who have, or think they may have, a tic disorder or tourette syndrome to take part in much needed research into these conditions.

Dr Valerie Brandt wants to build strong links with the tourette community and their families and get them involved in her new public engagement and research project called “TICS Connect” working in partnership with Tourettes Action, a UK-wide tourette syndrome charity.

Taking in part in this research will provide participants with access to services that they cannot easily access at present. Very few psychologists have training in treating tics and the nearest clinics specialising in tourette syndrome are in London and Birmingham. This shortage of clinicians with the relevant experience means that patients are often treated with medication rather than with behavioural intervention treatments that many wish to receive.

Individuals taking part in this research who suspect they, or their children, have either of these conditions can receive a detailed assessment of the symptoms by specialists which can help them to get a formal diagnosis. Participants who have already been diagnosed with a tic disorder or tourette syndrome will have the opportunity to take part in future studies at the University of Southampton to find out more about their disorder or receive behavioural based treatment that would not otherwise be available to them locally.

Throughout Dr Brandt’s research, patients and their families will have their say on what they would like her and her colleagues to focus on to ensure that the research addresses the concerns that matter most to them.

Dr Valerie Brandt said:

“Tics and tourette syndrome can be very debilitating and often severely affect patients’ quality of life. I am therefore really keen to use my expertise and previous research in this area to help those who are currently unable to get the support they need. But this will be a two way relationship and it is also really important that myself and other specialists in this field listen to patients and allow them to inform our studies so that we can help them get the support they are looking for.”

Approximately 1% of the population suffers from Tourette syndrome (having multiple motor and vocal tics for more than a year) and a much higher percentage suffers from milder forms of tic disorders, particularly children. Despite this, tics frequently remain unrecognised as a neuropsychiatric disorder for years and the average time before a diagnosis is made is five years. 90% of tourette patients also suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

TICS Connect will begin with a public meeting on 23rd November at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus. At this launch event, Dr Brandt and her colleagues will give participants more information about psychoeducation and treatment options, particularly for children and adolescents, and explain how researchers at the University of Southampton can support patients in seeking a diagnosis or treatment. Patients will also be encouraged to share their concerns and the questions they would like researchers to address.

Anyone interested in taking part in this event can register for free. A smaller session will take place prior to the main talk where attendees can speak more about their specific concerns and what they would like researchers to look into, registration for this event is also free.

Anyone generally interested in finding out more can also contact the University of Southampton’s Psychology Department on TouretteResearchSoton@gmail.com or visit the Tourette Action website.

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