Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abnormalities a consequence of stuttering?

Here is an often made argument that is getting more and more difficult to defend.
Comparing a stutter's brain with a non-stutter's brain leads to a dead end because the very fact that a person stutters for years and years has an affect on the brain. Just like a person who plays the piano for years has a different brain structure than a person who doesn't. But it doesn't mean that the piano player was born with that brain structure
Here are the arguments against:

a. Scans on older kids also show structural brain abnormalities thereby making it less likely to be a consequence of stuttering.

b. Scans on adults who recovered from childhood stuttering also show structural brain abnormalities.

c. Genes either cause (e.g. stuttering families) or significantly contribute to stuttering in many but by far not all stutterers. They are physical objects that code proteins that are used to build part of the brain. So the brains of these stutterers are definitely physically different from the very start, because they have genes that are abnormal.

d. The fact that genes can cause or contribute towards stuttering shows that physical stuff can cause or contribute towards stuttering and is a strong indication that other physical events like brain injury or virus infection might lead to similar physical deficiencies.

e. The magic brain plasticity is a feel-good myth. The brain virtually never goes back to normal after a stroke or a development disorder like stuttering. If the kid is lucky, the brain will find a different way to do the same task, but very likely at the cost of inferior performance.

f. Surely there are adaptations, but this does not able that it is all adaptations.

g. One Japanese researcher, Dr Mori, has found abnormalities in infants before they start stuttering using a technique called light spectroscopy, I believe.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is the difference between a Recovered Stuttering Brain vs. a fluent Brain vs. a stuttering Brain?

(Tiger Woods' Brain vs. Barack Obama's Brain vs. Tom Weidig's Brain)

Pam said...

I participated in a PET Scan project with NIH in 2006, and an MRI study with Columbia University in early 2009. Interesting stuff. I do think the brains of stutterers vs fluents are wired different. Results of my CU study were actually shared with me. Hopefully, these research studies will lead to better understanding of this mystery of stuttering.

Rex said...

Tom

It's me again.

You wrote "Scans on older kids also show structural brain abnormalities thereby making it less likely to be a consequence of stuttering."

Why is it less likely??? It doesn't take very long for a brain to change its connections. Such things happen on the time scales of days, weeks and months (even years) - but certainly not decades. And if it is really true (as you claim) that these structural abnormalities are the root cause of stuttering (and not the consequence of years of stuttering), then we can say that the mystery of the cause of stuttering has been solved. But I don't hear anybody making such claims. So maybe you can expand on what these abnormalities are, how they cause stuttering to develop, and why we cannot explain them as the effects of brain plasticity. None of the papers I've read over the years have provided convincing explanations.

But it seems that you are not convinced either, because you state the following:
"One Japanese researcher, Dr Mori, has found abnormalities in infants before they start stuttering using a technique called light spectroscopy, I believe."

I haven't heard of this. Perhaps you can provide some details. Are you again saying that the cause of stuttering has been found? Is it the same cause found from the scans of older kids, or is it different?

Olivier said...

So, Rex, what do you suggest... ?

Rex said...

Olivier,

I suggest that people question these so-called gurus. Ask the hard questions.

In an earlier blog, Tom invited readers to ask him questions. He said, "I will answer them all"
When I tried to ask some tough questions - questioning some of his scientific conclusions - Tom got all defensive and said that I was "waffling along with random logical thoughts". Great!

I understand that there are a lot of readers of this blog. Some of them agree with Tom and believe that stuttering research is going along just fine - with those "brilliant" genetic studies and those "insightful" brain scans. But there are others who are skeptical. To those people who are skeptical, make yourselves heard. If you attend conventions, express your ideas as vocally as possible. If you have time, create your own webpage or blog. If every little person does a little bit, maybe things can improve. I say that this lack of progress in stuttering research is due to incompetent researchers, and it has gone on for too long.

Olivier said...

Why do you say researchers are incompetent ? Have you carefully read all the most important reports ?

"Express your ideas", OK, if it's constructive.
We still don't have THE answer, Tom knows it, he never said such a thing. Everybody knows that.
There are most of all a lack of grant.

I don't fully understand your point of view.

Anonymous said...

I happen to like what Rex says. He makes sense, he asks the tough questions and expresses himself clearly. Tom on the other hand ...

I am a recovered stutterer. I was a very severe stutterer, and became a Buddhist 8 years ago. By doing daily meditation 2 days a week I managed to speak without a sutter. I wonder how Tom's theories of stutterig can explain that.

Olivier said...

Until you don't know yourself how to explain that, i don't see why you criticize Tom's work.
It's very easy to criticize without really understand scientific litterature.

Chris said...

I am a recovered stutterer. I was a very severe stutterer, and became a Buddhist 8 years ago. By doing daily meditation 2 days a week I managed to speak without a sutter. I wonder how Tom's theories of stutterig can explain that.

Try calling a few of the Stuttering researchers or Professors. Maybe they can scan your brain and do some test on you. Or call the Newspapers and try to get on TV. Because you apparently found the Cure!!! For yourself. Why don't you write a book...

Anonymous said...

It's healthy to be skeptical, but too often I see denial instead of skepticism. So many are now falling into the Bodenhamer\Harrison camp and rather than examine the research objectively they will try to discredit the research when it does not fit their existing belief system.

Rex said...

To Anonymous (28 May),

David, is that you?

I don't know very much about Bodenhamer, but the little I've read on the internet about his ideas gives me the impression that he doesn't know very much about stuttering at all.
Harrison, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense and he definitely has excellent knowledge of stuttering. The trouble with the current state of scientific research into stuttering is that there are a lot of meaningless papers being churned out, which are just repeats of research that has been done decades ago (see one of my previous responses). Coupled with the fact that most of these researchers are mediocre (even Tom has admitted this in one of his lucid moments), means that scientific progress has gone absolutely nowhere. We know that stuttering probably has a genetic component, but that's all we really know, and we've known it for decades. One can also argue that that being an a$$hole has a genetic component. We also know that environmental factors (internal and external) play a very significant role.

Harrison offers an alternative to the pseudoscience. It may not be the complete answer, but one would be foolish to discredit it. And from what I see, there is nothing on the horizon that can discredit Harrison's paradigm.

To Anonymous (27 May)

That's very impressive. I remember reading of a similar case in one of the stuttering newsgroups a few years ago. I also practice meditation, but it hasn't eliminated my stutter. Maybe there is more than one underlying cause of stuttering ... but we hardly ever hear about that from these "brilliant" stuttering researchers.

Olivier said...

Heart-rending.

Anonymous said...

Excelent stuff Rex

Rex said...

Olivier,

You said:
"Heart-rending."

Thank you. I had no idea that my comments would have such an effect. I should tell you, however, that I am very happily married to a lovely lady.

The good thing about the internet is that people are free to express their opinions, even though not everybody agrees with them. That's what freedom is all about.

Anonymous said...

Tom, why don't you examine/look at John Harrison's Stuttering Hexagon. Is it bs or is that a possibility?

Science is about the process of eliminations, most of the time, you are either right or you are wrong (or more research is needed). No shame to admit you are wrong. All it takes to be great is fail 100 times and succeed once, right?

There is a lot of bullshit out there....total waste of time.

Anonymous said...

When making an informed decision about what we think about stuttering we can only go by the information we have today. Ok, we can criticize the current research, but what else do we have to look at? I personally choose to believe the many researchers who have devoted their lives to the scientific study of stuttering. I find them to be far more credible then the new age gurus out there who are trying to sell us "coaching" and books on how stuttering is caused by "childlike beliefs" or a "misaligned hexagon."