Excessive impertinence or a missed diagnosis?

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7021.1700 (Published 23 December 1995)
Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1700

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  1. Timothy M Williams, junior research associatea,
  2. Kim, wildlife experta,
  3. Gareth Williams, professor of medicine (diabetes and endocrinology)a
  1. aDepartment of Medicine, Royal Liverpool University Hospital,f PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Williams

    In 1885 Gilles de la Tourette described a striking syndrome of motor and verbal tics, with uncontrollable gesticulations and verbal outbursts, especially of a profane or scatological nature (coprolalia).1 As currently defined, Tourette's syndrome encompasses several neurological disorders, including echolalia and palilalia (invented words), obsessive-compulsive behaviour, and occasionally self mutilation.2 Subjects often have a fascination with rhymes, riddles, and word play.3 4 Interestingly, Tourette's syndrome has been linked with artistic creativity, and there has been speculation that Mozart and Dr Samuel Johnson may have been sufferers.4 5 We believe that Tourette's syndrome could also underlie the bizarre and hitherto unexplained behaviour of one of the best known yet most enigmatic characters of 20th century English literature.

    Case report

    The case of SN, a male red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris leucourus) of indeterminate age, was reported in detail by Potter.6 SN came from an extensive family with no apparent history of neurological or other disease. He is described as “excessively impertinent in his manners” and was a source of great embarrassment to his family and of nearly fatal irritation to the local owl, a noted carnivore. He contrasts sharply with his peers, who were placid, well behaved, and content …

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