Cover image for A cursing brain? : the histories of Tourette syndrome
A cursing brain? : the histories of Tourette syndrome
Kushner, Howard I.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 303 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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RC375 .K87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the mid-19th century, a French physician reported the bizarre behaviour of a young aristocratic woman who would suddenly, without warning, erupt in a startling fit of obscene shouts and curses. Tourette syndrome is a set of behavours, including recurrent ticcing and involuntary shouting (sometimes cursing) as well as obsessive-compulsive actions. The history of this syndrome, as described in this text, reveals how cultural and medical assumptions have determined and radically altered its characterization and treatment from the early-19th century to the late 1990s.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Reports of athletes with Tourette's syndrome, several autobiographical accounts of it, and especially Oliver Sacks' essay "Witty, Ticcy Ray," in the best-selling Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1987), have brought the previously little-known condition a lot of recent attention. Kushner combines the virtues of a detective story with those of a well-documented medical history in a fascinating narrative of the development of knowledge about, treatments of, and medical and lay attitudes toward Tourette's syndrome (TS) patients. The word histories in the subtitle points to a major TS reality. Many theories of TS have led into blind alleys and disputes that have not been resolved. Kushner takes us down those paths and brings to life the investigators and propagandists who sought data or pushed their own views with little to back them up. He shows us that even the name of the malady appeared and disappeared as psychological and organic causes rose and fell in favor. Many who intend merely to sample the scholarly book may wind up devouring it. --William Beatty

Library Journal Review

Since the 1970s, the Tourette Syndrome Association has attempted to educate Americans to react compassionately to the startling involuntary gestures and vocalizations, sometimes shocking or obscene, of Tourettes patients. An increasingly common North American diagnosis, Tourette syndrome affects 2.9 to 5.2 per 100,000 Americans, most frequently male. Kushner (history of medicine, San Diego State Univ.) describes the shifting histories of this syndrome since it was first described by French neurologist Georges Gilles de la Tourette in 1885. Experts have variously attributed the Tourette complex of behaviors to moral defects, neurological damage, repressed sexual urges, and chemical imbalances. Such explanations, Kushner argues, conceal cultural assumptions that prevent physicians from fully hearing their patients stories and thus influence medical practice in damaging ways. Kushner cautions his readers that patients themselves, unconstrained by medical orthodoxy, have much to teach. A compassionate and absorbing work of medical history for academic and larger public libraries.Kathleen Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Note on Terms An Elusive Syndrome
The Case of the Cursing Marquise
A Disputed Illness The Case of ""O."" and the Emergence of Psychoanalysis Competing Claims
The Disappearance of Tic Illness Margaret Mahler and the Tic Syndrome Haloperidol and the Persistence of the Psychogenic Frame
The French Resistance The Triumph of the Organic Narrative Clashing Cultural Conceptions Clinical Lessons