Tourette syndrome

What causes Tourette syndrome?

Although the cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, current research points to abnormalities in certain brain regions (including the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex), the circuits that interconnect these regions, and the neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) responsible for communication among nerve cells. Given the often complex presentation of Tourette syndrome, the cause of the disorder is likely to be equally complex. In many cases, there is a family history of tics, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD.

In 2005, scientists discovered the first gene mutation that may cause some cases of Tourette syndrome. This gene, named SLITRK1, is normally involved with the growth of nerve cells and how they connect with other neurons. The mutated gene is located in regions of the brain (basal ganglia, cortex, and frontal lobes) previously identified as being associated with Tourette syndrome.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is Tourette syndrome inherited?

Evidence from twin and family studies suggests that Tourette syndrome is an inherited disorder. Although early family studies suggested an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance (an autosomal dominant disorder is one in which only one copy of the defective gene, inherited from one parent, is necessary to produce the disorder), more recent studies suggest that the pattern of inheritance is much more complex. Although there may be a few genes with substantial effects, it is also possible that many genes with smaller effects and environmental factors may play a role in the development of Tourette syndrome. Genetic studies also suggest that some forms of ADHD and OCD are genetically related to Tourette syndrome, but there is less evidence for a genetic relationship between Tourette syndrome and other neurobehavioral problems that commonly co-occur with Tourette syndrome.

Due to the complex nature of Tourette syndrome inheritance, affected families and those at risk may benefit from consulting with a genetics professional. Information about how to locate a genetics professional is provided in the Living With section.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is the prognosis for individuals with Tourette syndrome?

Many individuals with Tourette syndrome notice improvement of their symptoms in their late teens and early 20s. As a result, some may actually become symptom-free or no longer need medication for tic suppression. Although the disorder is generally lifelong and chronic, it is not a degenerative condition. Individuals with Tourette syndrome have a normal life expectancy. Tourette syndrome does not impair intelligence. Although tic symptoms tend to decrease with age, it is possible that neurobehavioral disorders such as ADHD, OCD, depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, and mood swings can persist and cause impairment in adult life.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is Tourette syndrome a rare disease?

It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of Tourette syndrome, and as many as one in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms such as chronic motor or vocal tics or transient tics of childhood.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How might Tourette syndrome be treated?

Many individuals with Tourette syndrome have mild symptoms and do not require medication. However, effective medications are available for those whose symptoms interfere with functioning. Neuroleptics are the most consistently useful medications for tic suppression; a number are available but some are more effective than others (for example, haloperidol and pimozide). Unfortunately, there is no one medication that is helpful to all people with Tourette syndrome, nor does any medication completely eliminate symptoms. In addition, all medications have side effects. Additional medications with demonstrated efficacy include alpha-adrenergic agonists such as clonidine and guanfacine. These medications are used primarily for hypertension but are also used in the treatment of tics.

Effective medications are also available to treat some of the associated neurobehavioral disorders that can occur in patients with Tourette syndrome. Recent research shows that stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine can lessen ADHD symptoms in people with Tourette syndrome without causing tics to become more severe. However, the product labeling for stimulants currently contraindicates the use of these drugs in children with tics/Tourette syndrome and those with a family history of tics.

For obsessive-compulsive symptoms that significantly disrupt daily functioning, the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (clomipramine, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline) have been proven effective in some individuals.

Behavioral treatment such as awareness training and competing response training can also be used to reduce tics. Psychotherapy may be helpful as well. It can help with accompanying problems, such as ADHD, obsessions, depression and anxiety. Therapy can also help people cope with Tourette syndrome. For debilitating tics that don't respond to other treatment, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may help. DBS consists of implanting a battery-operated medical device (neurostimulator) in the brain to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas that control movement. Further research is needed to determine whether DBS is beneficial for people with Tourette syndrome.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Community Resources

Job Accommodation Network

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has information on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues related to this condition. JAN is a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy in the U.S. Department of Labor.

Last updated on 04-27-20

Name: Tourette Association of America 42-40 Bell Boulevard Suite 205
Bayside, NY, 11361-2820, United States
Phone: +1-718-224-2999 Toll Free: 888-4-TOURET (486-8738) Fax : +1-718-279-9596 Email: Url:
Name: Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada #206, 194 Jarvis Street Toronto, Ontario
M5B 2B7
Phone: (416) 861-8398 Toll Free: 800-361-3120 Fax : (416) 861-2472 Email: Url:
Name: International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society 555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI, 53202-3823, United States
Phone: +1-414-276-2145 Fax : +1-414-276-3349 Email: Url:
Name: Associacion Sindrome de Tourette de Perú Luisa Fernanda L. de Romana, Gen. Sec. Las Golondrinas #390
Lima 27, PeruFax: + 51-1-224-7567

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