Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 111, Issue 6, pp 691–701 | Cite as

Pioneers of movement disorders: Georges Gilles de la Tourette

  • H. Krämer
  • C. Daniels
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Georges Albert Édouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette (1857–1904), a French neurologist and pupil of Jean Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, has gained common recognition through his description of the ‘Maladie des Tics’. This complex neuropsychiatric disorder, later known as the ‘Tourette’s syndrome’, nowadays is accepted as a specific entity of movement disorders.

Gilles had started working under Charcot (1825–1893), the first physician to occupy a designated chair of neurology of neuropsychiatric history, in 1884. Then the Salpêtrière hospital was a centre of intensive research with an emphasis on hysteria and hypnosis. Tourette took an interest in hysteria, but also dedicated himself to various other neuropsychiatric disorders and to neuropathology. He published scientific works on epilepsia, neurasthenia and syphilitic myelitis. Although he devoted much time to his neuropsychiatric research and the publication of articles in medical journals, his career did not make significant progress, despite Charcot’s unrestricted support. One reason was, that he disregarded questions, answers and problems, which were outside his interest fields. Hence, he was accused for having acquired an extremely filtered and one-sided knowledge. Also, his alienated and critical behaviour, which had not helped him to find many friends over the years, prevented him from professional promotion.

In 1893 an assassination attempt on Gilles de la Tourette raised considerable public interest: Gilles was shot in his appartement in the Rue de l’Université 39 by a young woman, who had been his patient in the Salpêtrière and who claimed that she had been hypnotized without her agreement and thereby had lost her mental health. However, the patient was diagnosed with a disease nowadays called paranoid schizophrenia and therefore hypnosis was not attributed to any part of the disease.

Due to episodes of melancholia and phases of delusions of grandeur and megalomania Gilles de la Tourette was forced to leave his hospital appointment in 1901. These symptoms and the corresponding neurological signs were attributed to the paretic neurosyphilis. He was institutionalized to the psychiatric hospital Cery near Lausanne, Switzerland. In the course of the following three years he became increasingly psychotic and demented, suffered from epileptic seizures and finally died in hospital on 22nd May 1904.


Schizophrenia Movement Disorder Epileptic Seizure Psychiatric Hospital Critical Behaviour 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Krämer
    • 1
  • C. Daniels
    • 2
  1. 1.Speyer am Rhein, University of KielGermany
  2. 2.Department of NeurologyUniversity of KielGermany

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