Almost 17 percent of Spanish children suffer tics

September 8, 2011, FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Tics are the most common movement disorder in children and young people. Credit: SINC

Experts have confirmed it: tics are not a rare or uncommon disorder. It is the second study to be conducted in Spain to date, and the first of great importance, revealing that the prevalence of these motor disorders in the child population is 16.86%. The incidence is greater in boys than girls, and they tend to disappear or reduce with age.

"Tics are a very common disorder," explains Esther Cubo, researcher from the Yagüe de Burgos General Hospital and the new study's lead author. "Before, it was believed to be a rare condition, and since studies were only conducted for people that consulted the doctor, only severe tics were observed. Now we have noticed that most are mild disorders that do not have any functional repercussion."

Although various epidemiological studies have been conducted, this is the second in , with a larger population size than the first one, which only recorded data in two school centres. This study determines the prevalence of tics in a sample of 1158 school children in the province Burgos, but the authors believe that these figures can be extrapolated to the rest of the Spanish population.

The results, published in the journal Pediatric Neurology reveal that while 16.86% of children in ordinary schools had tics, the number rose to 20.37% in special education centres. In both cases, it was more frequent in boys than .

Experts also analysed other related disorders, such as attention deficit disorder. Tics fluctuate and increase in situations of stress, such as family or school problems. The most severe diagnosis were chronic motor tic disorders (6.07%) and Tourette's syndrome (5.26%).

"There is still a lack of knowledge, even among medical staff, as to why diagnosing tics has to be associated with coprolalia –insults, swear words," highlights Cubo. "In fact, it is classified as being a rare disease, but we have to consider it as being common so that it is diagnosed correctly."

Neurological problem

Tics are hereditary in neurological development during infancy, characterised by sudden repetitive and stereotyped movements and sounds, which longitudinally and gradually improves in most subjects. "It is the most common movement disorder for children and teenagers," adds the researcher.

The epidemiological studies show that as the years pass, if it does not disappear completely, it does become less intense. Tourette's syndrome, chronic phonic disorder, transitory tics and unspecified tics all have as a symptom.

Although the cause is still not known, experts point out that it involves an involuntary movement suppression disorder in the circuit between the basal ganglia and motor cortex. Functional neuroimaging has proven that tic sufferers have certain areas in the brain that are overactive or which do not activate correctly to suppress these involuntary movements or sounds.

More information: Esther Cubo, José María Trejo Gabriel y Galán, Vanesa Ausín Villaverde, Sara Sáez Velasco, Vanesa Delgado Benito, Jesús Vicente Macarrón, José Cordero Guevara, Elan D. Louis, Julián Benito-León. "Prevalence of Tics in Schoolchildren in Central Spain: A Population-Based Study". Pediatric Neurology 45 (2011):100-108, August 2011.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too

January 23, 2018
Simply moving the eyes triggers the eardrums to move too, says a new study by Duke University neuroscientists.

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.