New speech test could diagnose Tourette's earlier: Children with syndrome are 'quicker at using sounds to form words'
- Two groups of children with and without Tourette's syndrome were tested
- Both repeated made-up words while being judged on speed and accuracy
- Turning sounds into actual words is a critical part of speech development
- The children with the syndrome were much faster at repeating the list
- Experts say the findings may help at-risk children get an earlier diagnosis
Children with Tourette's syndrome could be better than their peers at assembling sounds to form words, a new study has revealed.
The findings might help at-risk children get an earlier diagnosis of the neurological disorder, experts say.
In tests that compared a group of children with Tourette's syndrome to a group without, the children with the syndrome were much faster at repeating a list of made-up words.
Both groups were asked to repeat words such as 'naichovabe' while researchers assessed the speed and accuracy of their responses.
Children with Tourette's syndrome were much faster at repeating a list of made-up words - known as phonology - researchers from Newcastle University found (stock)
The children with the syndrome were much faster than, and just as accurate as the control group, researchers from Newcastle University found.
Turning sounds into actual words is known in linguistics as phonology and is a critical part of a child's speech development.
Typically, children with most sorts of brain disorders struggle to assemble the sounds and turn them into actual words.
The researchers behind this latest study said their results showed that phonology tasks could be used as an early predictor to diagnose the syndrome more quickly.
Dr Cristina Dye, lecturer in child language development at Newcastle University and lead author of the study, said: 'Research examining children with disorders such as Tourette syndrome usually explore difficulties or weaknesses.
'We wanted to examine potential areas of strength, as a way to broaden the understanding of this disorder.'
Well-known cases today include former Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and Big Brother winner Pete Bennett
This study, done in conjunction with Northwestern, Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities in the US , is not the first to reveal that children with Tourette's syndrome are especially skilled at certain language techniques.
The researchers noted that children with the condition are also good at morphology - putting together meaningful parts of words, such as 'walk' and '-ed'.
WHAT IS TOURETTE'S SYNDROME?
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterised by a combination of involuntary noises and movements called tics.
It usually starts during childhood and continues into adulthood. Tics can be either be vocal or physical.
In many cases Tourette's syndrome runs in families and it's often associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Tourette’s syndrome is named after the French doctor, Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described the syndrome and its symptoms in the 19th century.
There's no cure for Tourette's syndrome, but treatment can help to control the symptoms.
Source: NHS Choices
Senior author Dr Michael Ullman, from Georgetown University, Washington DC, said: 'Together, the two studies suggest that children with Tourette's syndrome may be fast at processing grammar more generally, that is, at rule-governed combination in language.'
Tourette's syndrome is an inherited condition of the brain, usually characterised by involuntary movements and sounds known as tics.
An adult with the syndrome has a 50 per cent chance of passing the gene down to their children.
According to the charity Tourettes Action UK, it affects one in 100 schoolchildren and more than 300,000 adults in the UK.
It was named after the French neurologist Dr Georges Gilles de la Tourette in 1885 after he diagnosed it a lady who had coprolalia - the swearing tic which affects one in 10 people with the syndrome.
Well-known cases today include former Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, Ghostbusters actor Dan Ackroyd, and Big Brother winner Pete Bennett.
The average age for a diagnosis is seven, but this could fall if the new research helps boost screening and diagnosis procedures.
Currently, the syndrome is only diagnosed if multiple motor tics and at least one vocal tic are present for more than a year.
The study was published in the Brain and Language Journal.
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