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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 54 (2012) 7, 617 - 626


Gilles de la Tourette: The history of the man and his illness; a medical historical study

F. Gilson

background Description of the life, illness and work of Georges Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904) and the history of his eponym.
aim To provide an historical overview of the different views about the disease of Gilles de la Tourette and the Tourette Syndrome.
method Literature review.
results In 1885 Gilles de la Tourette published a paper on a rare disorder whose symptoms were sudden movements (tics) and the shouting out of obscene language (coprolalia). According to Charcot it was a specific neurological disease which he named after his pupil: la maladie des tics de Gilles de la Tourette. Gilles de la Tourette was potentially successor to Charcot as Professor of Neurology. His bad temper, the first symptoms of neurolues with megalomania, and the fact that the ideas of hysteria had undergone a drastic change, deterred him from taking up the position. After his premature death in 1904 his name was soon forgotten. In the early part of the 20th century the disease of tics was regarded as a psychiatric disorder and from 1920 those suffering from tics were referred for psychoanalysis. After 1970 the disease of Gilles de la Tourette experienced a revival. The American couple Shapiro rediscovered the disorder as a neurological disease and named it the Tourette Syndrome. Thanks to the efforts of an influential American patient organisation Gilles de la Tourette has become famous worldwide with the exception of France. In that country their compatriot is not only less well known, but the belief is still held that it is a neuropsychiatric phenomenon that requires psychotherapeutic treatment.
conclusion The disease of Gilles de la Tourette or the Tourette syndrome has been regarded in different periods either as a neurological or a psychiatric disorder.

keywords history, Gilles de la Tourette, Tourette syndrome