Stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the smooth flow of speech production. Stuttering onset occurs during a dynamic period of development when children first start learning to formulate sentences. Although most children grow out of stuttering naturally, ∼1% of all children develop persistent stuttering that can lead to significant psychosocial consequences throughout one's life. To date, few studies have examined neural bases of stuttering in children who stutter, and even fewer have examined the basis for natural recovery versus persistence of stuttering. Here we report the first study to conduct surfacebased analysis of the brain morphometric measures in children who stutter. We used FreeSurfer to extract cortical size and shape measures from structural MRI scans collected from the initial year of a longitudinal study involving 70 children (36 stuttering, 34 controls) in the 3-10-year range. The stuttering group was further divided into two groups: Persistent and recovered, based on their later longitudinal visits that allowed determination of their eventual clinical outcome. A region of interest analysis that focused on the left hemisphere speech network and a whole-brain exploratory analysis were conducted to examine group differences and group × age interaction effects. We found that the persistent group could be differentiated from the control and recovered groups by reduced cortical thickness in left motor and lateral premotor cortical regions. The recovered group showed an age-related decrease in local gyrification in the left medial premotor cortex (supplementary motor area and and pre-supplementary motor area). These results provide strong evidence of a primary deficit in the left hemisphere speech network, specifically involving lateral premotor cortex and primary motor cortex, in persistent developmental stuttering. Results further point to a possible compensatory mechanism involving left medial premotor cortex in those who recover from childhood stuttering.
- cortical thickness
- local gyrification index (LGI)
- surface area