A ground breaking surgical procedure is proving useful in the research into a cure for Tourette syndrome. The condition can cause a variety of symptoms. The most common sign of Tourettes is uncontrollable twitches, tics and swearing. The person may suddenly shout out a swear word or a string of expletives, often in the most inappropriate circumstances.
People with Tourettes may also find that they are the butt of the joke or a figure of fun. For children with the syndrome this can obviously be a great cause of concern and negatively affect their education. Now there is hope.
Tourettes patient Jayne Bargent suffered from extreme Tourette symptoms. Hers had become so life changing that she was barely able to function with any sense of normality. Jane had constant and uncontrollable muscle movement. So much so that she could no longer, read, drive and cook plus she also found breathing and walking very difficult.
Jane had become so desperate that she had considered voluntary euthanasia in a Swiss clinic. Finally British Surgeons decided to try an experimental treatment called deep brain stimulation. This has been used successfully in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. For Jane the difference this treatment made was remarkable.
Holes were drilled into Bargent's skull, during a surgical procedure. Two tiny electrodes were then inserted into her brain. After this a pacemaker was fitted to her chest . This allowed doctors to send electrical impulses into her brain tissue. Once the pacemaker was "turned on" the tics began to subside. Forty minutes later the Tourette tics had almost vanished. Jane is now looking forward to recovering her quality of life.
Doctors are not quite sure how this treatment works. It is thought that circuits in the brain malfunction and brain signals become disorganised. The treatment it is thought dampens down the chaos and allows organised parts of the brain to take control.
Research will continue but there are already plans to carry out more operations on Tourette patients.
SkyNews filmed the surgical procedure and you can read the full story here
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog