History of Tourette Syndrome

Georges Gilles de la Tourette and the History of Tourette Syndrome

Georges Gilles

Georges Gilles de la Tourette 1857-1904

In 1825 the first case of TS was reported in medical literature with a description of the Marquise de Dampierre, a noblewoman whose symptoms included involuntary tics of many parts of her body and various vocalizations including coprolalia and echolalia.

19th century French neurologist Jean-Marc Itard described his patient as having motor tics, echolalia and coprolalia. His unfortunate patient, the Marquise de Dampierre, was a French noblewoman who developed motor tics at age 7 years and shortly thereafter developed involuntary vocalizations consisting of screams and strange cries. Several years later she developed coprolalia. With this host of problems, the Marquise was forced to live in seclusion and continued her involuntary cursing until her death at age 85.

Some 50 years after Itard’s report, in 1885, another French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette produced a detailed account of several patients with a similar condition, including the Marquise in her later years, that clearly established this entity. Jean Martin Charcot, one of the leading European neurologists of the 19th century and Gilles de la Tourette’s supervisor at the Salpetriere, attached his pupil’s name to this syndrome.

Georges Gilles de la Tourette was born (Georges Albert Edouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette) in 1857, and died in 1904

For most, of the 20th century, TS was considered a psychiatric disorder because of the voluntary suppressibility, stress-associated exacerbation, and bizarre forms of many of the tics. Indeed, its symptoms provoked a number of commentaries in the psychoanalytic literature. Because of the identification of many biological factors over the past 20 years, including the efficacy of pharmacologic therapy and the heritability of the disorder, TS has been reclassified as a neurological movement disorder. In fact, TS has prominent behavioural as well as motor manifestations, and occupies a niche that spans psychiatry and neurology.