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: Large-Scale Study Examines New Treatment for Adults Who Stutter

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

Probing Question: What causes stuttering?

February 21, 2011

In the movie "A Fish Called Wanda," he's the guy who bungles the old lady's murder. In "My Cousin Vinny," he's the inept public defender for the accused. People who stutter are so often portrayed in popular media as either ...

Recommended for you

Amputees' brains remember missing hands even years later

August 30, 2016

Our brains have a detailed picture of our hands and fingers, and that persists even decades after an amputation, Oxford University researchers have found. The finding could have implications for the control of next generation ...

Brain's internal compass also navigates during imagination

August 30, 2016

When you try to find your way in a new place, your brain creates a spatial map that represents that environment. Neuroscientists from Radboud University's Donders Institute now show that the brain's 'navigation system' is ...

Special nerve cells cause goose bumps and nipple erection

August 29, 2016

The sympathetic nerve system has long been thought to respond the same regardless of the physical or emotional stimulus triggering it. However, in a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the Nature Neuroscience, ...

0 comments

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.