Brain anatomy differences in childhood stuttering

Soo Eun Chang, Kirk I. Erickson, Nicoline G. Ambrose, Mark A. Hasegawa-Johnson, Christy L. Ludlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stuttering is a developmental speech disorder that occurs in 5% of children with spontaneous remission in approximately 70% of cases. Previous imaging studies in adults with persistent stuttering found left white matter deficiencies and reversed right-left asymmetries compared to fluent controls. We hypothesized that similar differences might be present indicating brain development differences in children at risk of stuttering. Optimized voxel-based morphometry compared gray matter volume (GMV) and diffusion tensor imaging measured fractional anisotropy (FA) in white matter tracts in 3 groups: children with persistent stuttering, children recovered from stuttering, and fluent peers. Both the persistent stuttering and recovered groups had reduced GMV from normal in speech-relevant regions: the left inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral temporal regions. Reduced FA was found in the left white matter tracts underlying the motor regions for face and larynx in the persistent stuttering group. Contrary to previous findings in adults who stutter, no increases were found in the right hemisphere speech regions in stuttering or recovered children and no differences in right-left asymmetries. Instead, a risk for childhood stuttering was associated with deficiencies in left gray matter volume while reduced white matter integrity in the left hemisphere speech system was associated with persistent stuttering. Anatomical increases in right hemisphere structures previously found in adults who stutter may have resulted from a lifetime of stuttering. These findings point to the importance of considering the role of neuroplasticity during development when studying persistent forms of developmental disorders in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1333-1344
Number of pages12
JournalNeuroImage
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, Maryland, and by the University of Illinois Campus Research Board grant (#04253) and NIH RO1 grant DC05210. The authors wish to express thanks to all the children and parents who participated in this research.

Keywords

  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Fractional anisotropy
  • Gray matter
  • Speech disorders
  • Stuttering
  • Voxel-based morphometry
  • White matter fiber tracts

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