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Tourette Syndrome

By Sahana Senthil Kumar


  • Tourette Syndrome affects the brain and nerves and is purely genetic.

  • There is currently no known cure for it.

  • It is lifelong, but changes throughout life.

What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder in which a person experiences involuntary movements and sounds, known as tics. These tics can be motor ( body movements ) or vocal. It often begins in childhood, worsten in adolescence, and improves during adulthood.


  • Motor tics: Movements of the body

  • Vocal tics: Sounds one makes with their voice

  • Simple tics: They are usually sudden and brief tics involved in certain muscle groups. Simple tics can be:

  • Eye blinking

  • Head jerking

  • Shoulder shrugging

  • Eye darting

  • Nose twitching

  • Mouth movements

  • Grunting

  • Throat clearing

  • coughing

  • Complex tics: Unlike simple tics, these are more complex and have coordinated movements in more muscle groups.

  • Repetition of one’s or someone else’s words/phrases.

  • Uncontrollable use of vulgar language.

  • Tics differ based on their severity and frequency.

  • Tics may become worse when overcome with strong emotions, including anxiety or excitement.

  • Tics occur in one’s sleep.

How does it work?

Tourette Syndrome is directly associated with different parts of the brain. For example, the basal ganglia, which is responsible for controlling body movements. The different sectors of the basal ganglia would include caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, substantia nigra, and subthalamic nucleus. This system creates a network that operates the cognitive, emotional, and even the movement - oriented functions of the brain. Constantly, inhibitory signals are being sent and received by the basal ganglia nuclei to the cerebral cortex. As discussed earlier, tics are a common symptom in Tourrettes. So, this could mean that the signals aren’t transmitted properly, resulting in unwanted movements and actions.

Today's Treatments

Though there is no known cure for Tourettes, there are many medications to help control it.

Haloperidol, Fluphenazine, and Pimozide: Affect the brain chemical, dopamine, which helps control tics.

Clonidine and Guanfacine: High blood pressure medications that treat tics.

Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, Sertraline: Antidepressants, meant to relieve excessive sadness, anxiety, or other strong emotions that may trigger tics.

Common Misconceptions

All people with Tourette Syndrome blurt out swear words or vulgar language: This is one of the most common misconceptions. In fact, most people with Tourette Syndrome don’t do this. However, those who do, have a condition called Coprolalia, affecting about 1 in 10 people with Tourettes.

Anyone who has a tic has Tourette Syndrome: Though having tics are the main symptoms of Tourettes, there is more to it. It is important to keep in mind that tics can vary in severity. For example, some tics are merely temporary, whereas some can be life - long. To add on, someone with Tourettes would have specific tics ( motor or vocal tics ) to qualify for a diagnosis.

Tourettes can be controlled: Tics, whether motor or vocal, are uncontrollable. Those with it have described it as a sneeze or cough, where it is never officially known when it would come and go.

Tourettes can prevent success: Yes, it can be difficult to deal with the struggle and difficulty that comes with Tourettes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it prevents success. This is because Tourettes may affect one’s speech and body language, but not intellect.


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