Medical Definition of Tic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Tic: A repetitive movement that is difficult, if not impossible to voluntarily control. Tics can affect any group of muscles. The most common are facial tics, such as eye- blinking, nose-twitching, or grimacing. Tics that affect the muscles used to produce speech are known as vocal tics, and can range from grunts or whistles to the repetition of complete words or phrases. Complex motor tics involve multiple, sequenced movements, and can include behaviors such as twirling in place, tapping a certain number of times, or stooping to touch the ground. Tics are believed to arise from differences in or damage to the basal ganglia, a structure deep within the brain that controls automatic movements and that also affects impulsivity.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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