When many people hear “Tourette's” it often ushers forth thoughts of some seeming out of control human being spewing an incessant stream of profanity. (The medical definition for this is coprolalia). In truth, the repetitive utterance of words vulgar words is symptom only found in a reliably small proportion (10%) of those with the disorder.
As is the case with autism, the exact cause of Tourette's syndrome has yet to be discovered. There is, however, a significant genetic factor involved; a mother or father with Tourette's syndrome has a 50/50 chance of passing the gene on to a child.
One useful way of thinking about what's going on with the mystery jerks or “tics” that someone with Tourette's may suffer dozens, even hundreds of times a day, is to think about a lamp with a faulty switch. You touch the switch, and the light flickers on and off. Even the slightest touch will cause the light bulb to engage in an apprentice dance of indecision, committing to nothing, but determined to do something- anything- until it finds itself doing something else. The point is, it's not the light bulb that's at fault, even though that's what is being noticed.
In much the same way, we find the person with Tourette's (or the person sitting next to them) wanting to control the arm, the leg, the facial expressions or the mouth. But just as changing the light bulb would do nothing to alleviate the challenges presented by a faulty light switch, tying down the hands or placing duct tape over the mouth of someone with Tourette's will prove to be just as ellogical, and most importantly, frustrating.
While we may not always be in a position to replace a less than perfect light switch, at least immediately, we can usually tighten the switch, or make sure that it is connecting properly. Sometimes it does not take much. This is sometimes the case with Tourette's and neurofeedback; sometimes clinicians may scratch their head in dismay at how simply the symptoms have been reduced. Trust, however, there will also be times when clinicians scratch their head, feeling somewhat confused, wondering why things are not happening faster.
Even though results are mixed, we are only at the beginning of the possibilities. Just think of being able to help someone who was suffering from severe Tourette's symptoms, which previous life was dedicated to managing their symptoms, to now have the opportunity to seek employment or get involved in a relationship. All because they have made such marked improvements with neurofeedback.
Then consider a doctor NOT telling a Tourette's sufferer about neurofeedback, simply because there's not enough research to support it as a mainstream form of treatment.
Understandably the costs can be a hurdle for some people but weighed against the fact that the side effects are little to none, the possibilities are endless. By utilizing the technology to improve people's lives without the need of a lifetime of drugs, neurofeedback is a logical choice for anyone wanting some relief from their Tourette's symptoms.