Hair cortisol-a stress marker in children and adolescents with chronic tic disorders? A large European cross-sectional study

Judith Buse, Josefine Rothe*, Anne Uhlmann, Benjamin Bodmer, Clemens Kirschbaum, Pieter J Hoekstra, Andrea Dietrich, Veit Roessner, EMTICS Collaborative Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: There is clear evidence that tic disorders (TDs) are associated with psychosocial stress as well as emotional and behavioral problems. Studies have shown that individuals with TDs have higher acute physiological stress responses to external, single stressors (as reflected by saliva cortisol). The aim of the present study was to examine a physiological marker of longer-term stress (as reflected by hair cortisol concentration) in children and adolescents with TDs and unaffected siblings of individuals with TDs.

METHODS: Two samples of a European cohort were included in this study. In the COURSE sample, 412 children and adolescents aged 3-16 years with a chronic TD including Tourette syndrome according to DSM IV-TR criteria were included. The ONSET sample included 131 3-10 years old siblings of individuals with TDs, who themselves had no tics. Differences in hair cortisol concentration (HCC) between the two samples were examined. Within the COURSE sample, relations of HCC with tic severity and perceived psychosocial stress as well as potential effects and interaction effects of comorbid emotional and behavioral problems and psychotropic medication on HCC were investigated.

RESULTS: There were no differences in HCC between the two samples. In participants with TDs, there were no associations between HCC and tic severity or perceived psychosocial stress. No main effects of sex, psychotropic medication status and comorbid emotional and behavioral problems on HCC were found in participants with TDs.

CONCLUSION: A link between HCC and TDs is not supported by the present results.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Early online date18-Jan-2021
Publication statusPublished - 18-Jan-2021


  • Tourette
  • Physiological stress marker
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Chronic tic disorders
  • Emotional and behavioral problems

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