The Effects of Neuroleptics on Longevity in Huntington’s Disease

  • Charles N. Still
  • Thomas J. Goldschmidt


Huntington’s disease (HD) comes from the observations of George Sumner Huntington, who gained eponymic immortality by his description of chronic progressive hereditary chorea in 1872. Huntington’s paper includes the following major features of the disease:
  1. 1.

    Its hereditary nature: “When either or both the parents have shown manifestation of the disease, ... one or more of the offspring almost invariably suffer from the disease, if they live to adult age. But if by chance these children go through life without it, the thread is broken and the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original shakers may rest assured that they are free from the disease.... Unstable and whimsical as the disease may be in other respects, in this it is firm, it never skips a generation to again manifest itself in another; once having yielded its claims, it never regains them.”

  2. 2.

    Its rarity: “hereditary chorea ... is confined to certain and fortunately a few families.”

  3. 3.

    Its abnormal involuntary movements: “It begins as an ordinary chorea might begin, by the irregular and spasmodic action of certain muscles, as of the face, arms, etc. These movements gradually increase, when muscles hitherto unaffected take on the spasmodic action, until every muscle in the body becomes affected (excepting the involuntary ones)....”

  4. 4.

    Its progressive nature: “... increasing by degrees, and often occupying years in its development, until the hapless sufferer is but a quivering wreck of his former self.”

  5. 5.

    Its delayed age of onset: “I do not know of a single case that has shown any marked signs of chorea before the age of thirty of forty years, while those who pass the fortieth year without symptoms of the disease, are seldom attacked.”

  6. 6.

    Its behavioral abnormalities, including suicide: “In nearly all the families ... in which the choreic taint exists, the nervous temperament greatly preponderates, and in my grandfather’s and father’s experience, which conjointly covered a period of 78 years, nervous excitement in a marked degree almost invariably attends upon every disease these people may suffer from, although they may not when in health be over nervous.... The tendency to insanity, and sometimes that form of insanity which leads to suicide is marked.”

  7. 7.

    Its progressive dementia: “As the disease progresses the mind becomes more or less impaired, in the many amounting to insanity, while in others mind and body both gradually fail until death relieves them of their sufferings.”

  8. 8.

    Its resistance to treatment: “I have never known a recovery or even an amelioration of symptoms in this form of chorea; when once it begins it clings to the bitter end. No treatment seems to be of any avail, and indeed nowadays its end is so well known to the sufferer and his friends, that medical advice is seldom sought.”



Tardive Dyskinesia Neuroleptic Drug Subacute Sclerosing Panencephalitis Choreiform Movement Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles N. Still
    • 1
  • Thomas J. Goldschmidt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral ScienceUniversity of South Carolina School of MedicineColumbiaUSA

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