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Brain Behind Stuttering - Key Circuits of Speech Affected

Brain Behind Stuttering - Key Circuits of Speech Affected

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  • The brain images of children and adults who stammer were studied by researchers using proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Stuttering affects children as well as adults and identifying key areas that are affected will promote better therapy and care.
  • Apart from speech, regions of the brain associated with motion, attention and emotion are also affected.

Stuttering in speech affects the fluency and is normally present from childhood up to adulthood. Now brain image studies have shown that there are neuro metabolite changes that are noticed across the brain.

These brain studies were carried out by scientists at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles using proton Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) in adults and children who stutter. The findings from this study were similar to the studies conducted previously using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


Brain Behind Stuttering - Key Circuits of Speech Affected


Stuttering is a neuropsychiatric disorder that is characterized by stammering where the child or adult speaks by repeating sounds of words or parts of it. Sometimes a child with a considerable stutter grows out of it and stops stuttering, however, there are numerous factors that contribute to that.

  • 3 million Americans stutter
  • It is commonly found in children between the ages 2 to 5
  • 5 to 10% stutter at some point in their life
  • Boys are 2 to 3 times more likely to stutter than girls.
  • Most children stop stuttering as they grow older.
  • Among people who do not stop stuttering, it can continue as a speech problem for the rest of their life.

The neural density associated with stuttering was studied using brain images of children and adults who stutter and comparing them with those who don't. 47 adults and 47 children were included in the study.

The study found that there were several important regions of the brain that were involved
  • Bohland speech production network - This region is involved in motor regulation activity.
  • Emotion memory network - This is involved in managing emotion
  • Default mode network - This is involved in attention regulation

"That stuttering is related to speech and language-based brain circuits seems clear," says Dr.Bradley S. Peterson who is the Director of the Institute for the Developing Mind at CHLA, and Professor and Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Dr. Peterson also said "Attention-regulating portions of the brain are related to control circuits that are important in governing behavior. People with changes here are more likely to stutter and have more severe stuttering. And emotions like anxiety and stress also tend to make stuttering worse, likely because this network interacts with language and attention control circuits."

Stuttering is generally identified in childhood when the child begins language development. The child is normally taken to a speech language therapist who will help identify the condition and if it will remain even during adulthood. There are many factors that dictate if a child will continue to stutter in adulthood and they are based on assessing the following factors

  • Stuttering that lasts for longer than 6 months
  • Any family history of stuttering
  • An deep rooted fear about stuttering
  • Existence of speech and language disorders.

As the child grows into teenage or adulthood, the tests involved in assessing stuttering are aimed more at
  • Providing improved speech fluency
  • Effective communication
  • Boosting confidence

The emotional aspect of stuttering can be daunting, with many people shying away from public spaces and social meeting which involve talking to people. In many landmark instances, people who stutter are encouraged to deliver important speeches, the rigorous training has been found to eliminate stuttering.

The current study helps in understanding the regions of the brain that may be affected due to stuttering which will aid in providing better support and therapy.

References :
  1. Stuttering - (http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/stuttering/)
  2. What is stuttering? - (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/stuttering)

Source: Medindia

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