How Was Tourette's Syndrome Discovered?


Quick Answer

Although a number of other researchers described the symptoms of Tourette syndrome, medical practitioners did not recognize it as a distinct neurological disorder until after Gilles de la Tourette published a famous article describing it in 1885, reports the Tourette Association of America. He based the article on his observations of nine patients who shared a hereditary degenerative disease characterized by motor and vocal tics. Tourette's mentor, Jean-Martin Charcot, probably contributed significantly to the research.

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An earlier description of a person afflicted with Tourette syndrome was in a book published in 1498. The sufferer was a priest, and the authors attributed the symptoms to demonic possession, explains the Tourette Association of America. Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, a French doctor, accurately described the symptoms of an aristocratic French woman prone to fits of involuntary movements and foul language in 1825, and Tourette used Itard's description in his article. Tourette's article also acknowledged an 1873 publication of French doctor Armand Trousseau's descriptions of similar symptoms. However, Tourette was the first to describe the condition in detail.

After Tourette's death in 1904, researchers did not display much interest in studying the condition until the early 1960s when they discovered a drug that could treat Tourette syndrome symptoms, according to The Tourette Association of America. In 1972, the establishment of the Tourette Syndrome Association triggered further research into the disorder.

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