Profound reorganization in brains of adults who stutter

August 15, 2011

Hearing Beethoven while reciting Shakespeare can suppress even a King's stutter, as recently illustrated in the movie "The King's Speech". This dramatic but short-lived effect of hiding the sound of one's own speech indicates that the integration of hearing and motor functions plays some role in the fluency (or dysfluency) of speech. New research has shown that in adults who have stuttered since childhood the processes of auditory-motor integration are indeed located in a different part of the brain to those in adults who do not stutter. The findings are reported in the September 2011 issue of Elsevier's Cortex.

Dr. Nicole Neef and Dr. Martin Sommer from the University of Goettingen, together with Dr. Bettina Pollok from the University of Duesseldorf, studied the performance of a group of adults who stutter, as well as a control group of adults who do not stutter, in a finger tapping exercise. They used Transcranial (TMS) to interfere temporarily with in the dorsolateral premotor cortex while the participants tapped their fingers in time with the clicks of a metronome. In control subjects, disturbing the left premotor cortex impaired the finger tapping, but disturbing the right premotor cortex had no effect. In stuttering adults, the pattern was reversed: the accuracy of finger tapping was affected by disturbing the right hemisphere, and unaffected when disturbing the left.

Previous research has already linked stuttering with a right-shifted in the motor and premotor areas during speech. In this new study, a shift of auditory-motor integration to the right side of the brain occurred even in a task not directly involving speech. Thus, in the brains of adults who stutter there appears to be a profound reorganization possibly compensating for subtle white matter disturbances in other parts of the brain - the left inferior frontal regions. These findings shed light on the extent of the reorganization of brain functions in persistent developmental stuttering.

Explore further: Persistence of stuttering into teenage years predicted by simple model

More information: The article is "Right-shift for non-speech motor processing in adults who stutter" by Nicole E. Neef, Kristina Jung, Holger Rothkegel, Bettina Pollok, Alexander Wolff von Gudenberg, Walter Paulus, Martin Sommer, and appears in Cortex, Volume 47, Issue 8 (September 2011).

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.