University of South Florida

U.S. Senator touts USF Tourette syndrome study with CDC

With pediatric Tourette syndrome on the rise, research by USF’s Rothman Center will show how children with tic disorders access health care, function at school and find social acceptance 

St. Petersburg, FL (July 17, 2012) – During a recent Senate session addressing President Barack Obama, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland) highlighted the partnership between the University of South Florida and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluating the impact Tourette syndrome and other tic disorders on the health of American children. Once a rare disorder, new research shows that Tourette syndrome (TS) now occurs in as many 10 per 1,000 children and adolescents.

How these youth locate doctors who can properly diagnose and treat their condition, interact at school and find social acceptance for their disorder is still not widely known. Answering these questions is the goal of an ambitious new cooperative research project between USF’s Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry and the CDC. 

“Some individuals with severe TS show remarkable resiliency and adapt well against the apparent odds, yet we know little about what makes one child more resilient while another begins a life of disability,” said Dr. Tanya K. Murphy, the director of USF’s Rothman Center in St. Petersburg, FL, who directs the USF arm of the national study.  The University of Rochester is also a study partner in the cooperative agreement with the CDC.

Tanya Murphy, Tourette Syndrome, Rothman Center for Neuropsychiatry

USF’s Dr. Tanya Murphy directs a cooperative study with the CDC, to determine the public health impact of tic disorders, including Tourette Syndrome, affecting children and their families.

Using Florida health care data, the study will establish a social picture of the state’s pediatric TS patients, including their range of symptoms and impairment, their medical risks as well as their age, race/ethnicity and gender. The USF researchers will interview children with TS, along with their parents, physicians and teachers, to provide a thorough review of the challenges faced by these pediatric patients. 

Of particular interest to the researchers is how a TS diagnosis affects children’s ability to succeed in school, maintain friendships and navigate social networks. “For those with TS, tics commonly impede school functioning as well as social development within the context of school,” Dr. Murphy said.  

 Several evidence-based treatments for TS are available. Yet many schools and physicians are not educated on the resources to diagnose and manage this disorder, Dr. Murphy said. The USF-CDC study will also track the difficulties pediatric TS patients encounter in finding an accurate diagnosis and appropriate follow-up care with doctors and school mental health services. 

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that most often begins in early childhood. It is defined by the presence of multiple physical tics and at least one vocal tic. Contrary to its stereotyped presentation in popular culture, persons with TS do not routinely yell socially inappropriate remarks. Instead, the condition makes people perform repeated movements and sounds they cannot control such as jumping, throat-clearing and arm-thrusting.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can vary over time in reaction to stress or illness. The disorder is often accompanied by other behavioral and psychological difficulties such as anxiety, disruptive behavior, ADHD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

About USF’s Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry
USF’s Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry, located near the USF St. Petersburg campus, has been at the forefront of research on childhood neuropsychiatric disorders such as Tourette Syndrome, tics, autism spectrum disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The center conducts several ongoing clinical trials and offers evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy to children and families with developmental disorders.

About USF Health
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities.

Dr. Tanya Murphy, Rothman Center for Pediatric Neuropsychiatry
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