Find A Physician

Return to Tourette's Syndrome Overview

More on Tourette's Syndrome

Research and Clinical Trials

Return to Tourette's Syndrome Overview

More on Tourette's Syndrome

Neurology and Neuroscience

Tourette's Syndrome

Back to the nypneuro.org Home Page

About Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

Tics are repetitive involuntary movements or vocalizations. Motor tics are abnormal movements that range from simple eye blinking, facial grimacing, or shoulder shrugging to more coordinated patterns of complex movements such as flapping, twisting, bending, or hopping. Phonic tics consist of vocalizations and may include throat clearing, coughing, barking, or grunting; people with more complex vocalization patterns may repeat whole words or phrases.

People with tics often develop an urge to perform the action or have an abnormal sensation in the affected body part (premonitory sensation). These urges are sometimes briefly suppressible, but attempting to suppress them causes distress, and patients may experience a flurry of tics afterward.

People with tic disorders have persistent motor and/or vocal tics. Motor and/or phonic tics that last for at least four weeks but less than a year are called transient tic disorders, while those that last for more than a year are called chronic tic disorders. Tourette's syndrome is a chronic tic disorder in the patient has both motor and vocal tics and symptoms that began before 18 years of age.

Tourette syndrome (TS) usually appears between the ages of 5 and 18 with mild tics of the face, head, or arms. Over time, the tics can become more involved, frequent, and disruptive. In about a third of people diagnosed in childhood symptoms, the symptoms spontaneously resolve as they reach adulthood. In another a third of patients, symptoms are substantially reduced during adulthood; the remainder of patients have symptoms throughout adulthood. Patients with tic disorders frequently have associated psychiatric symptoms such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and phobias.

Causes of Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

The causes of tics and Tourette's Syndrome are unknown, but research suggests these disorders arise from abnormalities in specific regions of the brain and the circuitry that connects these regions. Specific neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine) that carry messages between nerve cells appear to be of particular importance in tic disorders.

Diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

Neurologists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital's two movement disorders centers, Columbia's Center for Parkinson's Disease and Other Movement Disorders and Weill Cornell's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Institute, are expert at accurately diagnosing tics and Tourette's syndrome and helping patients and their families manage complications of these disorders.

Medical Treatment for Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

Neurologists treat tic disorders and Tourette's syndrome with different types of medications including those that can reduce the frequency and intensity of tics by modulating the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA, and treatments for associated anxiety disorders, since these can also reduce the severity of symptoms and improve overall quality of life.

Neurologists treat some patients with tic disorders and Tourette's syndrome with botulinum toxin injections into the specific muscles that are involved in a patient's tics. This treatment may decrease both the tics themselves and the preceding urge to perform them.

Rehabilitation for Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

For some patients behavioral techniques such as biofeedback or relaxation methods can alleviate stress that can aggravate tics. Other support services can also be helpful for patients with behavioral difficulties related to a tic disorder.

Research for Tourette's Syndrome and Other Tic Disorders

Researchers at Columbia's Center for Parkinson's Disease and Other Movement Disorders or Weill Cornell's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Institute are conducting studies to find the causes of tic disorders and Tourette's syndrome, and to improve treatment for them.

  • Bookmark
  • Print

    Find a Doctor

Click the button above or call
1 877 NYP WELL


eNewsletters

Find a Specialist




Top of page