Tic disorders are childhood onset neuropsychiatric disorders characterized by motor and/or vocal tics. Research has demonstrated that children with chronic tics (including Tourette syndrome and Chronic Tic Disorder: TS/CTD) can suppress tics, particularly when an immediate, contingent reward is given for successful tic suppression. As a diagnosis of TS/CTD requires tics to be present for at least one year, children in these tic suppression studies had been living with tics for quite some time. Thus, it is unclear whether the ability to inhibit tics is learned over time or present at tic onset. Resolving that issue would inform theories of how tics develop and how behavior therapy for tics works. We investigated tic suppression in school-age children as close to the time of tic onset as possible, and no later than six months after onset. Children were asked to suppress their tics both in the presence and absence of a contingent reward. Results demonstrated that these children, like children with TS/CTD, have some capacity to suppress tics, and that immediate reward enhances that capacity. These findings demonstrate that the modulating effect of reward on inhibitory control of tics is present within months of tic onset, before tics have become chronic.
Greene, D. J., Koller, J. M., Robichaux-Viehoever, A., Bihun, E. C., Schlaggar, B. L., & Black, K. J. (2015). Reward enhances tic suppression in children within months of tic disorder onset. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 11, 65–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2014.08.005