Monday, February 21, 2011

From Freud to fMRI: Untangling the Mystery of Stuttering

There was a symposium on stuttering with Smith, Drayna, and de Nil organized by Nan Rantner.
This symposium will track current developments in the study of stuttering, the fruit of recent collaborations among researchers in the fields of genetics, speech motor control, and language processing. Until the past decade, much of the research into this common yet poorly understood communication disorder tended to be narrowly focused on accounts within a single discipline, from psychoanalysis to learning theory to articulatory control to hemispheric asymmetry. In this symposium, we will provide examples of the cross-disciplinary research that is changing consensus on the probable basis for stuttering. Recent advances in genetics, brain imaging, and speech motor control will be discussed in terms of their ramifications for better understanding this elusive disorder as well as treating it more effectively.
All are excellent scientists. However, they are foremost experimentalists and clinicians that work within their respective paradigm. Their challenge is to work on a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework on stuttering and I fear they will get slowed down due to a lack of 100% conceptual and theoretical rigour. I discussed with all of them. They are all bright, but no-one of them is an excellent theorist.They are very much in their experimental paradigm, and their talks suffer from 100% conceptual clarity. Ann Smith is the one with the clearest conceptual mind. But even she is in my view stuck in a single functional cause picture, as far as I remember from our short discussion at Oxford.

I find the mention of the name "Freud" in the title complete and utter kitsch. Why do we need to mention his name or work? Can we not focus on the here and now?


Olivier said...

Tom, you forgot to mention the world first mouse who stutters :-)

Misnomer said...

Tom, what is your take on this? Will mouse model work?

Anonymous said...

why not fish model, it is much cheaper? A stuttering mighty mouse named Tom and a stuttering fish called Mark, they fight and disagree.

How about inject the stuttering mouse with all kinds of craps and change hormones (give it sex change) because we all know that more males than females stuttter. But why?

Stuttering can be related to puberty, and hormones???

Tom Weidig said...


The mouse is not really about stuttering, but probably on the impact of the mutations on the mouse's physiology.

We know that mutations in more than one of the three genes leads to significant dysfunction, but nothing is known about only one mutation. (as far as I understand)

Ora said...

Reminds me of the pig who stutters, Porky Pig.

The mouse model and even the pig model have been very useful for many other medical studies. Why not in stuttering research??

Beyond mice and pigs, can we think of any other cases of non-human stutterers? How about the people on the estimated 100 million planets with stutterers from Tom's February 4 posting?

Tom Weidig said...

The key issue is that a mutation in one of the three genes does not seems to show any noticeable deficiency (except possibly stuttering), but mutations in more than one of the three genes shows significant deficiencies.

I suspect the biomolecular pathways in mice are very similar to humans, and so the experiments can look closer at the effect that a single mutation has on the biomolecular "life" of the mouse brain. Either nothing much happens because there is redundancy in the pathways which is only broken at two mutations, or there is some impact. The question is on which regions?