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August 16, 2012Posted in: News & Information, Programs & Resources Tagged: ,

The Late, Great Dr. Arthur Shapiro

In 1965, a psychiatrist named Arthur Shapiro (pictured left) received a referral from a local neurologist. The referred patient was a young woman working as a secretary who was experiencing unwanted, repetitive behaviours including frequently sticking out her tongue and shouting obscenities in inappropriate contexts. At the time, of the referral many in the medical community believed that repetitive tics were connected to sexual feelings and sexual expression. As a result, many also believed that Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic method was the best possible treatment for tics. Dr. Arthur Shapiro, on the other hand, felt very differently. Recalling his interactions with this young woman, he told People Magazine: “I had the instinctive clinical feeling…that my patient’s condition was not psychological but organic.”  This feeling led Dr. Shapiro to do some research on his patient’s symptoms. After extensive reading, Dr. Shapiro concluded that this young woman had Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome or TS. He then tried everything he could to help reduce her symptoms including psychotherapy, hypnosis and 36 different medications. Unfortunately, none of these treatments had any effect. A breakthrough finally came in the form of an article. Shapiro read that a French physician successfully treated a patient with TS using a drug called haloperidol and decided to give this a try. On attempt number 37, after giving his patient haloperidol, the young woman’s symptoms began to show improvement! In 1968, with the help of his psychologist wife Elaine (standing next to Arthur in the same photograph), Shapiro published an article about this experience. The article, “Treatment of Gilles de la Tourette’s Syndrome with Haloperidol,” documented how the neuroleptic drug haloperidol could help to manage TS symptoms. Most importantly, the article concluded that TS was not likely a purely a psychological problem. Forty-four years later, his conclusion is still relevant. To this day, the medical community defines TS as a neurological or neuropsychiatric condition, rather than a purely psychological one. The list of Dr. Shapiro’s contributions to the TS causes does not end there. Following his haloperidol study, Dr. Shapiro devoted himself to dispelling misconceptions about the condition and to establishing accurate diagnostic criteria. He wrote extensively on the subject and he and his wife helped to create the American Tourette Syndrome Association (TSA), an organization that continues to help individuals with TS and their families to this day. At the time of his death, at age 72, Dr. Shapiro was still hard at work for the TS cause as the Director of the Tourette Research Foundation. The TS community undoubtedly is grateful to this great doctor for all his contributions. They will not soon be forgotten!

1 Comment

  1. First off, it has them Digimons. Very irritating.

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