Stuttering affects five percent of children and one percent of adults. Children between the ages of two and five may develop some form of stuttering during their childhood. For some it may only last for several weeks, and for others it may last several years.
New research suggests, in as little as one week, speech therapy may reorganize the brain assisting in the reduction of stuttering.
The study comprised of 28 individuals who stutter and 13 people who do not stutter. Fifteen of the individuals who suffer from stuttering participated in a week of therapy with three sessions a day. Each therapy session included two-syllable words that were spoken to them and then reading words presented to them visually. There was no time-limit enforced for either task. The remaining 13 who stutterers and the 13 controls received no therapy.
Researchers used brain scans in order to examine the thickness of the cerebral cortex in the brain of all individuals prior to the study and at the end. Additionally, they also evaluated the interactions between the resting state functional connectivity areas of the brain. Researchers found for those suffering from stuttering, the thickness and strength of interactions were reduced in the language production area called the pars opercularis, which plays a vital role in speech. Increased strength of interactions was found in the cerebellum for those with stuttering compared to the controls.
For the individuals who participated in the therapy sessions, the functional connectivity in the cerebellum was reduced to the same levels as those who did not suffer from stuttering.
"These results show that the brain can reorganize itself with therapy, and that changes in the cerebellum are a result of the brain compensating for stuttering," said study author Chunming Lu, PhD, of Beijing Normal University in China. "They also provide evidence that the structure of the pars opercularis area of the brain is altered in people with stuttering."
This study gives researchers new insights into the role of different areas in stuttering.