Monday, March 30, 2009

Stuttering a brain disorder?


I just listened to an interview on StutterTalk with Jerry Maguire, and everyone seemed to agree that stuttering is a brain disorder.

I am going to shock my readers now, but I believe that stuttering is not just a brain disorder but also a behavioural disorder. The underlying cause is a brain abnormality leading to instable speech which then leads to association between stuttering and words, situations or people. And these associations can trigger stuttering without there being a neurological issue at that very instance. So 90% of your stuttering events might well NOT be of a neurological cause but you stutter because one of your associations have been triggered by a word, event or situation leading the brain to execute stuttering. I believe more and more that stuttering is a hybrid disorder.

Compare to Tourette syndrome for example. The urge for the tics are always there but sometimes they are suppressed longer and other times there are not. (Unless I misunderstand the disorder...) But with stuttering, the neurological stuttering is not always there...

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought stuttering was a multifactorial disorder....

How come no research on correlations between Tourette and Stuttering. There are some similiarities.

Dave

Tom Weidig said...

multi-factorial in which way?

I would rather say: one dominating original causal factor, abnormal neurology, but then you have many factors coming into play, many of these are modulating factors rather than causal factors i.e. they increase or decrease severity. And then there is a feedback effect from learned associations that cause stuttering even without a neurological basis for many stuttering occurences.

Anonymous said...

In TS the urge to tic is not constant. The urge waxes and wanes over time and can be increased or decreased with certain conditions (i.e. stress, forced concentration).

There are several papers looking at TS and stuttering but much of the older information fails to differentiate between stuttering and high levels of typical disfluencies.

Tom Weidig said...

Yes, I am not denying this, but I am not sure whether specific words, situations, or people can trigger the symptoms unlike in stuttering.

I have the impression it is more like:

situation, more stress hormones, more ticks.

Eric said...

I think the cause of stuttering is definitely a physical/chemical issue with the brain, that can be triggered by certain environmental and situational conditions. Certain stressors (talking on the phone, saying words you can't avoid, etc) trigger certain neurotransmitters and/or hormones, such as dopamine, which exacerbates the underlying brain disorder.

I like to use an analogy of a broken foot. The real issue is a broken bone in your foot, but you feel much more pain when you try to walk or run. Yet, walking or running isn't the cause of your pain...it's the broken bone in your foot. The walking and running exacerbates the underlying issue, and acts as a stressor, but neither is the underlying root cause. Both just make the underlying issue worse.

I don't necessarily think there is behavioral aspect. You may know what causes conditions are stressors to your stuttering, but that doesn't replace the fact that the root cause is a physical/chemical brain abnormality. I agree that you may be able to lessen your stuttering if you are able to deal with the stressors better, but it won't cure the underlying cause.

Anonymous said...

Here you go:
"there has been growing agreement among many researchers and clinicians that stuttering is a multifactorial disorder (Conture)"

Dave

Anonymous said...

Dave,

TS might be related to stuttering, but the link appears to be circumstantial, and a lot of people tend to exaggerate the link. One idiot on the stutteringchat yahoo list suggested that stuttering *is* TS.

But how about a link between stuttering and paruresis? Paruresis is commonly called "bashful bladder" syndrome and affects mainly males (obviously). A person with this problem is unable to urinate in public urinals when people are around, but has no problem when there is nobody around. Just like most stutterers don't stutter when there's nobody around. Has there been any study about a link between paruresis and stuttering?

Anonymous said...

cool, someone should study it!

Dave

Karen said...

Tom wrote "I am going to shock my readers now, but I believe that stuttering is not just a brain disorder but also a behavioural disorder. The underlying cause is a brain abnormality leading to instable speech which then leads to association between stuttering and words, situations or people."
I'm not shocked, Tom! I think this is a very coherent explanation, which describes, at least, my stuttering perfect. Thanks! Karen

Rod Duncan said...

I'd be interested to know what percentage of the population have a predisposition to stutter. If it does have a genetic component and is present in the population at levels greater than a couple of percent, one would be tempted to postulate that this bit of the genetic code must also carry some advantages. Otherwise, in an evolutionary sense, it would have diminished to a far lower percentage.

This argument is used in dyslexia. If 5% of the population are dyslexic, the genes that cause dyslexia cannot be all disadvantageous - or they would have been reduced to almost nothing in the population, through a process of natural selection. Thus I do not refer to my dyslexia as a disability.

Of course, these things are not so simplistic. There nay be many genes involved. Different combinations of them may give advbantages and disadvantages.

But I would be fascinated to know if there is a cluster of recognised abilities that are associated with stuttering - as there are with dyslexia. And, indeed, what research has been done to look for them.

Fascinating blog, by the way. Much enjoyed.

Tom Weidig said...

About 1% of the population.

I think you commit a logical fallacy here. Dyslexia has not been around for a long time, because it is only important in culture with written texts. And a selection could only have started a few hundred years ago??

Tom

Anonymous said...

How would "a triggering by a word, event or situation leading the brain to execute stuttering" differ any from a neurological cause? We are nothing but our neurons, unless you're a believer of some religion, so I don't really see the difference.

Anonymous said...

Hi, could you please explain why I am stuttering the day after the MRI on my brain and this was on the 7th of May. I could talk right before, Now I can't speak a word without stuttering. thanks

Anonymous said...

OMG! I know it almost three years later..but are you still stuttering? Did you have the MRI with contrast(dye)?

Ryan Hancock said...

Hey just too see if anyone replies but. I have both dyslexia and all the time stuttering. I was wondering if anyone knows or has the same. I can't find any dyslexic and stutters on the internet.

As the comment above says dyslexia comes with advantages, one being seeing connections and social cues easier. And I can definitely say that my stutter comes from what the expected outcome of the person I am talking to. As I generally know what response I will receive information and emotional wise. It is hard to pick perfect words that won't be thought upon or cause some negative feeling to either person.

Anonymous said...

My husband got shocked at his job. Now he is stuttering, that happened wednesday last week first hours he couldnt talk good he was stuttering bad. Now he is still stuttering but less. My question is this. What he needs to do to talk normal again.

Tom Weidig said...

He should urgently go to a neurologist or emergency unit. His stuttering could be related to a mini-stroke. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

I just want to share my experience as a female sever stutterer all my life. I am a seventy-one years old grandmother. I haven't stuttered in almost five year. I will stubble over words once in a while, but everybody does that from time time. I was diagnosed with Parkinson's five years ago. The medicine I take for my Parkinson's stopped my stuttering too. I take carb/Levo and propranolol with an antidepressant to supplement the dopamine in my brain So add this to your research. SOME STUTTERING DOES HAPPEN IN THE BRAIN!!! P. LeClair Sioux City, IA