Jennifer Vermilion, MD

Clinical Research Training Scholarship in Tourette Syndrome

Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, stereotyped, involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics. The first symptoms of TS are almost always noticed in childhood. Some of the more common tics include eye blinking and other vision irregularities, facial grimacing, shoulder shrugging, and head or shoulder jerking. Perhaps the most dramatic and disabling tics are those that result in self-harm such as punching oneself in the face, or vocal tics including coprolalia (uttering swear words) or echolalia (repeating the words or phrases of others). Many with TS experience additional neurobehavioral problems including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms such as intrusive thoughts/worries and repetitive behaviors.

What We Know:
Chronic tic disorders (CTDs) such as Tourette syndrome are common, affecting approximately 1% of youth. Anxiety disorders are present in the majority of youth with tic disorders but the types of anxiety symptoms and the impact of these symptoms in youth with tic disorders are not well understood. Tics often improve by young adulthood, but anxiety tends to persist and can cause difficulties in adulthood.

Anxiety in youth with tic disorders can be severe and cause significant impairment. Anxiety can also worsen tics and can be associated with tic exacerbations. It is not known if anxiety in youth with tic disorders is the same as anxiety in youth without tic disorders.

Our Plan to Help:
Dr. Vermilion’s goal is to better understand anxiety symptoms in youth with tic disorders and how these symptoms impact their function. She will recruit youth with chronic tic disorders and a control group of youth with anxiety disorders who do not have tics. Dr. Vermilion will ask each participant to fill out questionnaires about anxiety symptoms and impact on daily life. She will ask the participants with tic disorders about the severity of their tics and will compare the anxiety symptoms in both groups and determine if specific anxiety symptom types are most impairing to function.

How You Can Help:
Donate to the American Brain Foundation to support Dr. Vermilion’s vital research that may lead to improved treatments for anxiety in youth with tic disorders. And, until December 31, 2019 you can donate directly to Dr. Vermilion’s research project exploring the intersection of chronic tic disorders and anxiety through our innovative crowdfunding site.

Dr. Vermilion is the recipient of the 2019 Clinical Research Training Scholarship in Tourette Syndrome funded by the American Brain Foundation and Tourette Association of America in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology.