Week Long Speech Therapy May Improve Stuttering
Nearly 5 percent of children and 1 percent of adults suffer with the problem of stuttering. It is more common among children between the ages of two and five, where they develop some form of stuttering. It can last from several weeks to several years.
A new study in China claims that people who stutter should consider going to speech therapy for one week as it may help recognize their brain circuitry and reduce the speech disorder. Speech therapy helps inarticulation disorders, fluency disorders, resonance disorders, and language disorders.
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Chunming Lu, Ph.D, of Beijing Normal University in China helped conduct the study. Researchers studied the brains of 28 people who stuttered, and 13 other healthy people who did not stutter. Of them, 15 with stuttering problems received a week of therapy with three sessions per day. The other stutterers and the controls received no therapy.
Therapy involved the participants repeating two-syllable words that were spoken to them and then reading words presented to them visually. There was no time limit in either task.
It was found that the average scores on stuttering tests and the percentage of stuttered syllables improved for those who received therapy. There was no change in scores for the stutterers who did not receive therapy.
Before and after the study, brain scans were used by the researchers to examine the thickness of the cerebral cortex. Researchers also evaluated the interactions between the resting state and functional connectivity areas of the brain. What the researchers observed was that, in the stutterers, the thickness and strength of interactions were reduced in the language production area called the pars opercularis, which plays a vital role in speech. Increased strength of interactions was found in the cerebellum for those with stuttering as compared to the controls.
For those who received the therapy, the functional connectivity in the cerebellum was reduced to the same level as that of the controls. There was no change in the pars opercularis area of the brain.
"It is our experience that a competent therapist can help a person who stutters become fluent in one week," said Jane Fraser, representative for The Stuttering Foundation. "That is not the challenge; the goal in stuttering therapy is staying fluent - taking what you learn in the therapy setting and transferring it into the real world and maintaining that level of fluency over time."