Brain activation abnormalities during speech and non-speech in stuttering speakers

Soo Eun Chang, Mary Kay Kenney, Torrey M.J. Loucks, Christy L. Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Although stuttering is regarded as a speech-specific disorder, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that subtle abnormalities in the motor planning and execution of non-speech gestures exist in stuttering individuals. We hypothesized that people who stutter (PWS) would differ from fluent controls in their neural responses during motor planning and execution of both speech and non-speech gestures that had auditory targets. Using fMRI with sparse sampling, separate BOLD responses were measured for perception, planning, and fluent production of speech and non-speech vocal tract gestures. During both speech and non-speech perception and planning, PWS had less activation in the frontal and temporoparietal regions relative to controls. During speech and non-speech production, PWS had less activation than the controls in the left superior temporal gyrus (STG) and the left pre-motor areas (BA 6) but greater activation in the right STG, bilateral Heschl's gyrus (HG), insula, putamen, and precentral motor regions (BA 4). Differences in brain activation patterns between PWS and controls were greatest in females and less apparent in males. In conclusion, similar differences in PWS from the controls were found during speech and non-speech; during perception and planning they had reduced activation while during production they had increased activity in the auditory area on the right and decreased activation in the left sensorimotor regions. These results demonstrated that neural activation differences in PWS are not speech-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH. The authors wish to thank Christopher Poletto, who has contributed in experimental design and set-up during the initial phases of the study, Richard Reynolds for assistance in data analyses, and Sandra Martin for conducting speech and language testing.


  • Auditory-motor interaction
  • Forward model
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Non-speech
  • Planning
  • Production
  • Speech perception
  • Stuttering


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