The neurophysiological basis for stuttering may involve deficits that affect dynamic interactions among neural structures supporting fluid speech processing. Here, we examined functional and structural connectivity within corticocortical and thalamocortical loops in adults who stutter. For functional connectivity, we placed seeds in the left and right inferior frontal Brodmann area 44 (BA44) and in the ventral lateral nucleus (VLN) of the thalamus. Subject-specific seeds were based on peak activation voxels captured during speech and nonspeech tasks using functional magnetic resonance imaging. Psychophysiological interaction (PPI) was used to find brain regions with heightened functional connectivity with these cortical and subcortical seeds during speech and nonspeech tasks. Probabilistic tractography was used to track white matter tracts in each hemisphere using the same seeds. Both PPI and tractrography supported connectivity deficits between the left BA44 and the left premotor regions, while connectivity among homologous right hemisphere structures was significantly increased in the stuttering group. No functional connectivity differences between BA44 and auditory regions were found between groups. The functional connectivity results derived from the VLN seeds were less definitive and were not supported by the tractography results. Our data provide strongest support for deficient left hemisphere inferior frontal to premotor connectivity as a neural correlate of stuttering.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Intramural Research Programs of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- DTI tractography
- functional connectivity
- psychophysiological interaction (PPI)
- speech perception
- speech production