Biology 033: Tourette Syndrome
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Biology 033: Tourette Syndrome

Hi, my name is Kate Badalova and today I will
be informing you about Tourette syndrome and its various implications.
Before discussing what Tourette syndrome actually is, I want to go over some common misconceptions
about it. Normally, people associate the syndrome with coprolalia, which is essentially the
repetitive and involuntary speech of obscene or inappropriate words. However, this is not
the only symptom of Tourette’s; only a small percentage of individuals with Tourette’s
experience coprolalia. Another common misconception of the syndrome is that it impairs learning.
Tourette’s syndrome can coexist with other neurodevelopmental disorders, like ADHD and
autism, that can in fact impair learning, but it itself, does not do so.
Now what actually is Tourette syndrome? Tourette syndrome is a neurological condition that
involves motor and verbal tics, which are sudden and repetitive movements or vocalizations.
The name “Tourette” was derived from the French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette,
who observed the symptoms in nine patients in 1884. Jean-Martin Charcot, a French neurologist
deemed as the father of modern neurology, became his mentor and named the syndrome “Gilles
de la Tourett’s illness” in his honor. Currently, there are about 0.6% of diagnosed and undiagnosed
children with Tourette syndrome. As mentioned before, this syndrome generally
has two types of symptoms: motor and verbal tics. Motor tics involve echopraxia, which
is characterized by the repetition of the movement of others, and copropraxia, which
includes obscene gestures. Some examples of motor tics are the continuous blinking of
one’s eyes and shrugging shoulders. Verbal tics involve echolalia, which is the repetition
of the last word or phrase said by others, palilalia, the repetition of one’s own words
or phrases, and coprolalia, the repetition of inappropriate words or phrases. People
affected by Tourette’s generally describe these tics as sudden urges, similar to the
urges of an itch. They are aware of these urges, and develop some control of them over
time. Tourette syndrome can be diagnosed before
the age of 18, mainly after the typical age of onset at around 10 years. To diagnose an
individual with Tourette syndrome, they are required to meet the following condition:
they must experience at least 2 or more motor tics and at least 1 vocal tic for over a year.
It can usually be self-diagnosed because the symptoms are prominent, but should not be
confused with other conditions the child may have. Ages of highest tic severity are around
age 10 while most cases of Tourette’s in older individuals are mild. As mentioned before, Tourette syndrome can coexist with other conditions. This state
is called “comorbidity”, which is the existence of one or more conditions existing simultaneously
with a primary condition. ADHD is the most common comorbid condition in people with Tourette’s.
Less common comorbid conditions include autism and Asperger syndrome. Studies have shown
that while roughly 40% of people with Tourette’s do not have any other disorders, 8% of young
people with autism have comorbid Tourette syndrome and 10% of children with Tourette
syndrome have Asperger syndrome. In children with tics, the additional presence of ADHD
can be associated with tic severity, inappropriate behavior, and functional impairment.
Tics can also be more severe when experienced with a location, event, or feeling that evokes
a negative emotion. Therefore, some patients with Tourette’s seek cognitive behavioral
therapy, which help identify these triggers. Habit reversal training also helps to engage
the opposing muscles of the tics to lessen their severity. In extreme cases of Tourette
syndrome, antipsychotics like Haldol and Risperidone are prescribed, as well as epilepsy medication
to help suppress the tics. To conclude, I hope that you found this presentation
helpful or informative in some way or another. Because we are encouraged to respond to everyone’s
presentations, I want to ask a few questions that you may want to consider: What did you
find interesting about Tourette syndrome? Were you familiar with Tourette syndrome prior
to viewing this presentation? Did you find anything surprising about Tourette syndrome?
This concludes my presentation for today. Thank you!

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