Research Article| Volume 352, ISSUE 1-2, P41-47, May 15, 2015

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Tic-reducing effects of music in patients with Tourette’s syndrome: Self-reported and objective analysis

Published:March 18, 2015DOI:


      • Tourette patients’ subjectively perceived effect of music on tics was examined.
      • The effects of musical activity on tic frequency was experimentally tested.
      • Listening to and playing music and musical imagery was found to reduce tics.
      • A short-term tic reducing effect was found after musical performance.
      • We conclude that music offers a therapeutic approach for patients to reduce tics.



      Self-reports by musicians affected with Tourette’s syndrome and other sources of anecdotal evidence suggest that tics stop when subjects are involved in musical activity. For the first time, we studied this effect systematically using a questionnaire design to investigate the subjectively assessed impact of musical activity on tic frequency (study 1) and an experimental design to confirm these results (study 2).


      A questionnaire was sent to 29 patients assessing whether listening to music and musical performance would lead to a tic frequency reduction or increase. Then, a within-subject repeated measures design was conducted with eight patients. Five experimental conditions were tested: baseline, musical performance, short time period after musical performance, listening to music and music imagery. Tics were counted based on videotapes.


      Analysis of the self-reports (study 1) yielded in a significant tic reduction both by listening to music and musical performance. In study 2, musical performance, listening to music and mental imagery of musical performance reduced tic frequency significantly. We found the largest reduction in the condition of musical performance, when tics almost completely stopped. Furthermore, we could find a short-term tic decreasing effect after musical performance.


      Self-report assessment revealed that active and passive participation in musical activity can significantly reduce tic frequency. Experimental testing confirmed patients’ perception. Active and passive participation in musical activity reduces tic frequency including a short-term lasting tic decreasing effect. Fine motor control, focused attention and goal directed behavior are believed to be relevant factors for this observation.


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