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Rare neurological disease that causes repetitive motor and vocal tics. Named for Georges Gilles de la Tourette, who first described it in 1885, it occurs worldwide, is usually inherited, generally begins at ages 2–15, and is three times more common in males. Motor tics occur first in about 80% of cases, compulsions to utter abnormal sounds in the rest. A compulsion to utter obscenities, once thought characteristic, is often absent. Repetition of words heard and spontaneous repetition of one's own words are two distinctive symptoms. Other vocal tics may include meaningless sounds. Motor tics may be virtually unnoticeable; more complex ones may appear intentional (e.g., hopping, clapping). Sleep, intense concentration, and exertion tend to suppress the tics; emotional stress worsens them. Unlike psychiatric compulsive disorders, Tourette syndrome has a neurological origin and may improve with psychogenic drugs. Brain neurotransmitter abnormalities may be involved, but the underlying cause remains uncertain.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Tourette syndrome, visit Britannica.com.