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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2007;9(2):161-71.

Tourette's syndrome: clinical features, pathophysiology, and therapeutic approaches.

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Hospital for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany.


Tourette's syndrome (TS) is a disorder characterized by simple and complex motor tics, vocal tics, and frequently obsessive-compulsive symptoms. Its onset occurs before the age of 21. Typically, TS shows a waxing and waning course, but a chronification of the tics, even during later life, is often observed. TS mainly occurs in boys, and shows genetic heritability with differing penetrance. The pathological mechanism is still unclear Neuroanatomical and neuroimaging studies, as well as effective treatment using antipsychotics, suggest that a disturbance of the dopaminergic system in the basal ganglia plays an important role in the pathogenesis of TS. Several possibly causative mechanisms of the disturbed dopaminergic neurotransmission are discussed, with the main emphasis on the-infection-triggered-inflammatory immune process. Extrapyramidal movement disorders are known to occur as a symptom of poststreptococcal disease, such as in Sydenham's chorea. Cases of childhood TS are proposed to be caused by such a poststreptococcal mechanism, being part of a spectrum of childhood neurobehavioral disorders termed pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infection (PANDAS). The overlap between TS and PANDAS is discussed, and a critical view of the PANDAS concept is presented. The therapeutic implications of the different pathological mechanisms are described, taking into consideration not only the acute or chronic natures of different infections, but also an autoimmune process. Moreover, therapeutic strategies using typical and atypical antipsychotics, and also experimental therapies such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and deep brain stimulation, are critically discussed.

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