Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 100 children in the UK. It is a condition that is often misunderstood and stigmatized, with many people wrongly assuming that it is characterized only by outbursts of swearing and inappropriate behaviour – the reality is far more complex.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a disorder that causes involuntary vocalizations and movements, known as tics, that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.
For those with Tourette’s Syndrome, life can be incredibly challenging. The constant tics can lead to embarrassment, social isolation, and even physical pain. Many people with the condition struggle to find effective treatments that can help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
A recent breakthrough in clinical research may provide a much-needed solution for those struggling with this condition. A team of researchers from the University of Nottingham has developed a new wrist device, called the Neupulse, that delivers electrical pulses to reduce the amount and severity of tics in individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome.
Neupulse – How it works
The Neupulse device is a wearable wrist device that delivers median nerve stimulation at the press of a button, giving people control over their tics.
The device was developed to help individuals with Tourette syndrome reduce the frequency and severity of tics they experience. Researchers at the University of Nottingham began investigating the condition in 2005-2006, and found that non-invasive brain stimulation techniques could be used to bring about therapeutic benefits, including remission of tics.
These techniques were not suitable for use outside of the clinic or with very young children. As a result, the researchers developed into alternative methods of entraining brain network function and developed the therapeutic approach that underpins the Neupulse device. This research was funded by the University of Nottingham, Tourettes Action, and the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre.
The latest Neupulse device, developed by the University of Nottingham, is a non-invasive, safe, and effective non-drug treatment for tic disorder that gives individuals control over their tics.
It works by delivering rhythmic patterns of mild electrical stimulation to the median nerve at the wrist, which increases the power and synchronicity of the brain oscillations associated with the suppression of movements. This stimulation is sufficient to dramatically reduce the frequency of tics and remove the urge-to-tic in individuals with tic disorders.
In the study conducted at the University of Nottingham with the support of Tourettes Action, researchers demonstrated the beneficial effects of median nerve stimulation for reducing tic frequency and tic intensity in Tourette syndrome. They developed prototype devices to use exclusively in a clinical trial, which showed that people who received active stimulation experienced a significant reduction in the severity and frequency of their tics.
After using the device for 4 weeks, people who received active stimulation experienced a reduction in their tic severity of more than 35%. In total, 59% of the people who received active stimulation experienced a reduction in tic severity of at least 25% compared to baseline. This trial provided evidence of the beneficial effects of median nerve stimulation for reducing tics in Tourette syndrome.
The device is now being developed for commercial use and aims to provide a safe, effective, and accessible treatment option for individuals with tic disorders.
Neupulse Trial Results
Previous research by scientists from the University of Nottingham’s School of Psychology and School of Medicine used repetitive trains of electrical stimulation to the median nerve (MNS) at the wrist to entrain rhythmic electrical brain activity, known as brain oscillations, associated with the suppression of movements. They found that rhythmic MNS is sufficient to substantially reduce tic frequency and tic intensity, and remove the urge-to-tic, in individuals with TS. Building on this research, the Neupulse device uses similar electrical pulses to entrain rhythmic electrical brain activity, which has shown promising results in a UK-wide clinical trial of 121 people.
The Neupulse device underwent a clinical trial involving 135 individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome to determine its effectiveness in reducing the frequency and severity of tics. During the trial, participants were shown how to use the device and were asked to use it at home at the same time each day for 15 minutes over a period of one month. Selected people were also videoed each day, and each week, participants gave feedback on their experience.
The trial participants used the device at home at a similar time each day for 15 minutes for a period of one month. Each week, participants gave feedback on their experience, and the results of the trial revealed that people who received active stimulation experienced a significant reduction in the severity and frequency of their tics, with an average reduction in tic frequency of 25%. The university stated that the results were encouraging, and the researchers are optimistic about the future potential of the device.
Tourette’s Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental condition that is typically diagnosed between the ages of eight and 12. It is characterized by involuntary sounds and movements called tics, which can be repetitive, stereotyped movements and vocalizations that occur in bouts, often many times in a single day. These tics are often preceded by a strong urge-to-tic, referred to as a premonitory urge (PU).
The trial was funded by the charity Tourettes Action, NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, and Neurotherapeutics Ltd. In addition, Tourettes Action ran Tourette’s Awareness Month to de-stigmatize TS and educate the public about the reality of Tourette’s Syndrome, dispelling some of the myths that surround it.
According to Emma McNally, Chief Executive Officer of Tourettes Action, the condition is shockingly prevalent but is still poorly understood. More than 300,000 people in the UK are known to have Tourette’s Syndrome, but that number is likely much higher.
Tourettes Action aims to raise awareness of the condition during Tourette’s Awareness Month and help remove the stigma associated with it. With greater awareness comes acceptance, and that is a key part of their work, enabling people with Tourette’s Syndrome to be fully included in society. People with Tourette’s often feel isolated and excluded because of the low level of awareness in society, and Tourettes Action’s goal is to change that.
- Neupulse is a wearable wrist device developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham for reducing the frequency and severity of tics in individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome
- It works by delivering rhythmic patterns of mild electrical stimulation to the median nerve at the wrist, increasing the power and synchronicity of brain oscillations associated with the suppression of movements
- Neupulse underwent a UK-wide double-blind clinical trial and showed promising results, with participants experiencing a significant reduction in tic severity and frequency after using the device for 4 weeks
- The device is now being developed for commercial use and aims to provide a safe, effective, and accessible treatment option for individuals with tic disorders