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Sun Apr 10 21:56:41 EST 2005

Irresistible impulses

Matt Walker

PEOPLE WHO SWEAR and twitch because they have Tourette's syndrome are more
in control of their actions than anyone realised. A psychologist in Canada
has found the first direct evidence that their tics are intentional,
coordinated movements made in response to some irresistible urge, rather
than involuntary spasms.

The symptoms of Tourette's range from excessive twitching to extreme bouts
of inappropriate swearing. Doctors have assumed that the tics and verbal
outbursts are involuntary, says Randy Flanagan of Queen's University in
Kingston, Ontario.

Flanagan believes this is evidence that Tourette's is not a simple motor
disorder but a higher-level problem. He thinks it is like obsessive
compulsive disorders, which affect the circuits of the brain's premotor
frontal lobe and basal ganglia--areas that control planning and decision


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