Podcast: Can Gut Bacteria or TikTok Use Lead to Tourette’s?

The utterance of profanities in church may be taboo, but for Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S., it was the catalyst for her specialization in Tourette syndrome.

Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S., who specializes in Tourette syndrome.
Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Coffey, an internationally recognized child and adolescent psychiatrist, treated one of her first patients with Tourette’s in the ’80s. The patient had typical symptoms of the disorder, but also suffered from coprolalia — the involuntary outburst of obscenities or inappropriate remarks. Interestingly, the child only swore when he was at church.

“To me, this was really fascinating,” said Dr. Coffey, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “I knew that Tourette’s was a genetic disorder, yet there were major psychological aspects to it.”

Dr. Coffey joined “Inside U Miami Medicine” to share her latest research in Tourette’s, a neurodevelopmental syndrome that is part of a spectrum of tic disorders. Her team is the first in the U.S. to study the link between gut inflammation and tic exacerbation.

Barbara Coffey, M.D., M.S., speaks with Dean Ford about Tourette syndrome.
Dr. Barbara Coffey joined the latest edition of “Inside U Miami Medicine” with Dean Henri Ford.

“We think a particular protein may be the trigger in the brain,” said Dr. Coffey. “We are also looking at the treatments we use to treat tics; we think that they these, too, may alter the gut microbiota and could exacerbate the inflammatory process.”

Dr. Coffey, who is also the director of the Tourette Association of America Center of Excellence at UHealth – University of Miami Health System and chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, also shared insight into the global phenomenon of “TikTok tics” and the effects of social media and the pandemic on children’s mental health.

Find the episode anywhere you listen to podcasts (search “Inside U Miami Medicine”) or click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Tags: Dean Henri Ford, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Barbara Coffey, Inside U Miami Medicine, Tourette's syndrome