Tourette syndrome

Tourette syndrome is a complex neurological disorder that involves motor and vocal tics that occur repeatedly throughout the day and can interfere with daily activities. These tics can range from simple to complex, such as:

  • Eye blinking
  • Head jerking
  • Jumping
  • Grunting or throat-clearing
  • Touching an object repeatedly
  • In a small percentage of cases, saying obscene or socially unacceptable words

Patients with Tourette syndrome can suppress the motor and vocal tics temporarily, but with great stress. Often those with Tourette syndrome feel a great need to reduce the associated anxiety, resulting in the repetition of tics.

Although the cause of Tourette syndrome is unknown, research indicates that neurotransmitters are involved as well as abnormalities in the circuits that connect the basal ganglia, frontal lobes, and cortex of the brain. Evidence also suggests that there is a genetic component to the syndrome.

Onset of Tics

The onset of these symptoms typically occurs in childhood, around elementary school and subsides by early adulthood in more than two-thirds of cases. But for patients who suffer from a severe form of the disease—involving uncontrollable tics into adulthood—neurosurgery provides another option for treatment.

The Center for Neuromodulation provides neurosurgical techniques to block brain signals that are associated with severe forms of Tourette syndrome. The Center often collaborates with the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders Treatment Center, as the condition can be associated with other anxiety disorders such as OCD.

Deep Brain Stimulation for Tourette syndrome

Traditional therapies for Tourette syndrome have included oral medications such as mild anti-seizure drugs, dopamine receptor drugs, antipsychotic drugs as well as cognitive behavioral therapy.

When a Tourette syndrome patient reaches adulthood with a medical refractory tic and has not responded to different classes of medications or therapy, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be recommended.

The advanced neurosurgical treatment involves the implantation of tiny electrodes into the brain. The device is programmed to provide ongoing electrical stimulants that block the neurotransmitters responsible for the tic, ultimately providing relief. With help from neurologists at the Parkinson and Movement Disorders Center, the programming of the device can be altered as needed to provide the best results.

For a comprehensive evaluation, call the Center for Neuromodulation at the Department of Neurosurgery at 212-241-0050.


Contact Us

Center for Neuromodulation
Tel: 212-241-0050

1468 Madison Avenue
Annenberg Building
8th Floor Room 40
New York, NY 10029

DBS In the News

ABC News reports on a Mount Sinai patient who underwent deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat his Tourette’s syndrome. Read more about Andrew’s story