Research provides new insight into the causes of stammering

One of 20 people experience an episode of stuttering throughout their childhood. Stuttering was thought to be a psychological problem that was caused by the trauma of childhood or the lack of effort prior to the second half of the 20th century.

However, advances in neuroimaging are allowing for a better understanding of brain function in speech and how stuttering can be caused. Frank Guenther from Boston University will present his findings about the causes of stuttering at the 181st Meeting of Acoustical Society of America. The meeting will take place at the Hyatt Regency in Seattle from November. 29 through Dec. 3. The talk, “A neurocomputational view of developmental stuttering” will be held on Tuesday, November. 30 at 2:15 p.m. Eastern U.S.

Guenther compares speech to a jukebox, which plays CDs. There are two circuits inside the jukebox. One circuit selects a particular CD and another that plays the CD.

Inside the brain, this corresponds to one circuit initiating the desired speech in the basal ganglia while another circuit coordinates the muscles needed to create the speech. Stuttering is a result of the initiation of speech, therefore only one of the two circuits is impaired.

Stuttering is caused by CDs being played incorrectly or the selection process.

Frank Guenther, Boston University

This theory is in line with behavioral observations about stuttering. People often speak fluently after the sentence, even if the same words cause stuttering at the beginning of an entire sentence.

Guenther and his team developed computational models of how the speech initiation system functions in a non-stuttering individual. They can also analyze these models against data from patients with Parkinson’s disease after deep brain stimulation surgery.

Guenther stated, “This gives us a fighting chance to determine the specific causes of stuttering”

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Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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