What Makes People with Tourette Syndrome Tick

Wednesday, May 6, is Tourette Syndrome Day.  So here’s some basic information and links.

Gilles de la Tourette was the first to scientifically describe the condition that bears his name.

Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904) was the first to scientifically describe the condition that bears his name.

In 1885, a young medical student Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904) wrote an article in a medical journal, in which he described a neurological condition in nine of his subjects, the maladie des tics.  Although earlier physicians described these sudden involuntary vocal outbursts and motor tics, it was Tourette who, along with his mentor, Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, provided the clear description that would lead to the later recognition of the condition that today bears his name.

For many decades, however, there was little interest in Tourette syndrome.  Interest resumed in the 1960s, and recent brain research has contributed to our understanding of the condition.  Cognitive behavioral intervention therapy may help people with this disability gain better control over their condition.  However, the true cause of Tourette remains a mystery.

What one should know:

  • Tics are involuntary and sometimes frequent movements or vocal sounds. The most common of these tics are eye blinking and throat clearing, respectively.
  • Tourette syndrome is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety or learning disabilities.
  • Spontaneous swearing is not common in people with Tourette syndrome. The 10% of persons with the condition have little or no control over this habit.
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