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Getting Closer to Cause of Tourette Syndrome
Date:5/5/2010

of Medicine.

Tourette syndrome tends to run in families. The disorder usually emerges in childhood and, for many, improves in adulthood. Although the causes of the syndrome are unknown, previous research suggests abnormalities in certain brain regions and in the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine may play a role, according to the Tourette Syndrome Association.

Children who see doctors for Tourette syndrome often have other disorders as well, including depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or learning disabilities, State said.

Many cases of Tourette syndrome are mild and improve over time. But severe cases can be debilitating -- socially and physically -- and current treatment options are limited, said Dr. Francis J. McMahon, chief of Genetic Basis of Mood and Anxiety Disorders at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

In addition to behavioral intervention, first-line medications include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. More severe symptoms of the syndrome can be treated with antipsychotic medications such as risperidone (Risperdal) or neuroleptic medications, such as haloperidol (Haldol), but long-term side effects can be serious.

McMahon called the new study "exciting."

"Here is a condition we have known for many decades to be strongly familial. There's been a huge effort put into trying to find the genes that are involved, yet we have not really come up with genetic findings until now that really explain why it runs in families," said McMahon, also scientific advisor for the Tourette Syndrome Association. "Even more importantly, the findings point us toward new treatments."

McMahon added: "There are a lot of medications in the pipeline that target the histamine pathway. This study suggests that it might be worth looking very carefully at those new drugs as a potential treatment for Tourette."

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