What is Tourette Syndrome?

Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder, which most often begins between the ages of 2 and 21, and lasts throughout life. TS is NOT degenerative and people with TS can expect to live a normal life span. TS is characterised by rapid, repetitive and involuntary muscle movements and vocalisations called “tics”, and often involves behavioural difficulties.

Tics — sudden, brief, intermittent movements or sounds — are the hallmark sign of Tourette syndrome. They can range from mild to severe. Severe symptoms might significantly interfere with communication, daily functioning and quality of life. Tics are experienced as a build-up of tension, are irresistible and eventually must be performed. Typically tics increase as a result of tension or stress and decrease with relaxation or concentration on an absorbing task.

The two categories of the tics of TS and some common examples are:

Common motor tics seen in Tourette syndrome

Simple ticsComplex tics
Eye blinkingTouching or smelling objects
Head jerkingRepeating observed movements
Shoulder shruggingStepping in a certain pattern
Eye dartingObscene gesturing
Nose twitchingBending or twisting
Mouth movementsHopping

Common vocal tics seen in Tourette syndrome

Simple ticsComplex tics
GruntingRepeating one’s own words or phrases
CoughingRepeating others’ words or phrases
Throat clearingUsing vulgar, obscene or swear words
Barking

The variety and complexity of tics or tic-like symptoms that can be seen in TS is enormous. The extent to which one experiences different symptoms varies from person to person.


Additional Resources:

Dr. Friedman serves as Clinical Professor of Neurosciences and Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego. Her patient, Lillian Rose, was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome at 7 years old, and since then has developed an interest in neuroscience. In her talk, Lillian discusses her experience in controlling her tics as well as seeking how to understand it better.


Jack Klion shares his experience living with Tourette syndrome and why it’s important to spread knowledge about Tourette. Jack Klion is a National Youth Ambassador of Tourette Association of America and a student at Edgemont Jr/Sr High School.

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