Children’s Hospital Los Angeles researchers report findings of MRS study of stuttering

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) in the US have reported findings from its study examining brain regions of stuttering adults and children.

Led by CHLA Institute for the Developing Mind director Bradley Peterson, the research team used proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to study the brain regions.

A neuropsychiatric condition, the origin of stuttering in the brain is only partly known.

The scientists performed proton shift imaging of the brain in 47 children and 47 adults to measure an index of neural density related to stuttering in circuits and brain regions suspected to be affected.

Findings from the study revealed neuro-metabolite alterations across the brain which linked the occurrence of stuttering to changes in brain circuits that control speech production and circuits that is responsible for attention and emotion.

The affected brain regions included major nodes of the so-called Bohland speech-production network, regulating motor activity; the default-mode network, responsible for regulation of attention; and the emotional-memory network, responsible for regulating emotion.

Peterson said: “That stuttering is related to speech and language-based brain circuits seems clear.

“Attention-regulating portions of the brain are related to control circuits that are important in governing behavior. People with changes here are more likely to stutter and have more severe stuttering.

“And emotions like anxiety and stress also tend to make stuttering worse, likely because this network interacts with language and attention control circuits.”

The MRS study of stuttering established that disturbances in neuronal or membrane metabolism triggers stuttering.

Examining a combination of children and adults to detect the effects of stuttering, independent of life-stage, also revealed differences between children and adults within both the stuttering and control samples.