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April 29, 1974

The Devil and Gilles de la Tourette

Author Affiliations

York Hospital York, Pa

JAMA. 1974;228(5):567. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230300015011

To the Editor.—  Excitement over the book and movie, The Exorcist, by William P. Blatty derives from the case actually of a boy, in the files at Georgetown University. The striking similarity to cases of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome suggests that diagnosis in the case studied in the book. In a typical example, a boy, from the age of 4 to 8 years, has the onset of tics, barking noises, and coprolalia. The tics are often bizarre flinging of the arms and body, associated with grimacing. Uncontrolled sounds such as grunts, hissing, and expiratory grunts are uttered with great frequency. The commonest description of these sounds are as loud barking noises. The coprolalia depends upon the background and cultural setting but includes common obscenities. In one case reported from Britain, there was repetitive use of "cocky-breasty."1 Echolalia is also common. The etiology remains obscure. The few postmortems that