Children who stutter differ in brain development: Study

Vancouver: Children who stutter have less grey matter in key regions of the brain responsible for speech production than children who do not stutter, according to a new Canadian study.

The study, published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Cortex, explains how the brain is built for speech production, why people stutter, and affirms the importance of seeking early treatment.

Researchers from the University of Alberta scanned the brains of 28 children ranging from five to 12 years old, half of whom had been diagnosed with a stutter. The remaining half served as a control group.

Results showed that the inferior frontal gyrus region of the brain develops abnormally in children who stutter.

According to the researchers, that part of the brain is thought to control articulatory coding - taking information our brain understands about language and sounds and coding it into speech movements.

"If you think about the characteristics of stuttering, repetitions of the first sounds or syllables in a word, prolongation of sounds in a word, it's easy to hypothesise that it's a speech-motor-control problem," said Deryk Beal, lead author of the study.

Beal sees the results as a first step towards testing to see how grey matter volumes are influenced by stuttering treatment and understanding motor-sequence learning differences between children who stutter and those who do not.

"The more we know about motor learning in these kids, the more we can adjust our treatment, deliver it in a shorter period of time, and deliver it more effectively," he said.

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