Tourette syndrome

  • Tourette syndrome (TS) is an inherited disorder of the nervous system, characterized by a variable expression of unwanted movements and noises (tics).

    Causes

    The cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, although some studies suggest that the tics in Tourette syndrome are caused by an increased amount of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. A neurotransmitter is a chemical found in the brain that helps to transmit information from one brain cell to another. Other studies suggest that the defect in Tourette syndrome involves another neurotransmitter called serotonin; or involves other chemicals required for normal functioning of the brain.

    Most studies suggest that Tourette syndrome is an autosomal dominant disorder with decreased penetrance, although this hypothesis has not been proven and may not be true in all families. An autosomal dominant disorder results from a change in one copy of a pair of genes. Individuals with an autosomal dominant disorder have a 50% chance of passing on the changed gene to their children. Decreased penetrance means that not all people who inherit the changed gene will develop symptoms. There is some evidence that females who inherit the Tourette syndrome gene have a 70% chance of exhibiting symptoms and males have a 99% chance of having symptoms. It has been suggested that other genetic and environmental factors may play a role in the development of symptoms in people who inherit the changed gene, but none have been discovered. Some researchers believe that Tourette syndrome has different causes in different individuals or is caused by changes in more than one gene, although these theories are less substantiated. Further research is needed to establish the cause of Tourette syndrome.

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