Bertha and Wall-E Help Kiddos with Tourette’s Syndrome Turn Down Their Tics



Kids with Tourette’s Syndrome are just like everybody else. They run and jump in the playground, they enjoy making volcanoes bubble in science class, and they love poking fun at their brothers and sisters. However, sometimes kids with Tourette’s Syndrome act a little bit different because they make movements and noises called tics. These tics are like little involuntary hiccups, that the kids aren’t purposefully doing, or in full control of. For example, if a child has a tic that causes their arm to move a lot, it’s much more difficult for this child to write an essay or a math test in school, because their writing keeps getting all scribbly! And to make matters worse for these kids, since other kids often don’t understand tics they can often be socially isolated. This project seeks to help kids with Tourette’s Syndrome better control their tics, so that they might feel more included at school, during sports and with their family.


The Scientists

Cynthia Kahl, PhD Student

Follow Cynthia's lab on Twitter @FrankMacMaster

Principal Investigator, Dr. Frank MacMaster

University of Calgary

Dr. MacMasters' Website


The MacMaster Research Lab uses a fun magnetic therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to change how brains function in kids with Tourette’s Syndrome. Our TMS device is in a robot named Bertha, and we use a cool camera called Wall-E to track kids as they move and see inside their brains! TMS uses magnets to safely stimulate parts of the brain (specifically the Supplementary Motor Area), to turn down tics in kids with Tourette’s Syndrome.



By turning down the expression of tics in kids with Tourette’s Syndrome, we can help these kids succeed in their academic, athletic and family communities. The kiddo with an arm tic who has trouble writing – because it keeps getting scribbly – may be better able to control this tic after TMS treatment, to better write tests and assignments at school, improving academic performance. Success in school often leads to employment success, giving these kids their best chance long-term to lead healthy, positive lives in their communities. Approximately 0.3-0.6% of children have Tourette’s Syndrome, which is 305,757 to 611,514 children in Alberta alone. Current treatments of antipsychotic medication and behavioural therapy are not always effective or available and may have negative side-effects such as weight gain or fatigue (medication). New treatments are needed for kids with Tourette’s Syndrome to help them control their tics, to feel more in control of their bodies, to lead their best lives.


Amount Funded: $48,000

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Learn More!

  • Cynthia explains her research in 3 minutes!     

  • Could TMS still be safe for even younger kids? Learn more!

  • Educational cartoon for kids with Tourette’s