I’ve just noticed that Christian has written up a great summary of recent research which suggests that people with Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition that causes involuntary movements or vocal outbursts, have better ‘cognitive control’ than people without the syndrome.
This is quite surprising, as at first site, you might think that people with Tourette’s have poor control because of their involuntary movements.
In the study, the experimenters assessed cognitive control by asking participants to make quick eye movements to on-screen targets. The participants with Tourette’s could do this far more effectively than the control participants.
The fact that people with Tourette’s can do these tasks better than others may be due to the fact that they have a lot of practice trying to control their tics. In fact, it is a myth that they have no control, as some people can ‘hold in’ tics and ‘release’ them at a more appropriate time.
Fast eye movements (or saccades) are researched quite extensively as they seem to give an indication of brain function, and can be affected by genetic abnormalities, mental illness and certain drugs (as this review reported, and as Christian’s own research has indicated).
Link to summary of research from BPS Research Digest