Involvement of the Cortico-Basal Ganglia-Thalamocortical Loop in Developmental Stuttering

Soo Eun Chang, Frank H. Guenther

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Stuttering is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that has to date eluded a clear explication of its pathophysiological bases. In this review, we utilize the Directions Into Velocities of Articulators (DIVA) neurocomputational modeling framework to mechanistically interpret relevant findings from the behavioral and neurological literatures on stuttering. Within this theoretical framework, we propose that the primary impairment underlying stuttering behavior is malfunction in the cortico-basal ganglia-thalamocortical (hereafter, cortico-BG) loop that is responsible for initiating speech motor programs. This theoretical perspective predicts three possible loci of impaired neural processing within the cortico-BG loop that could lead to stuttering behaviors: impairment within the basal ganglia proper; impairment of axonal projections between cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus; and impairment in cortical processing. These theoretical perspectives are presented in detail, followed by a review of empirical data that make reference to these three possibilities. We also highlight any differences that are present in the literature based on examining adults versus children, which give important insights into potential core deficits associated with stuttering versus compensatory changes that occur in the brain as a result of having stuttered for many years in the case of adults who stutter. We conclude with outstanding questions in the field and promising areas for future studies that have the potential to further advance mechanistic understanding of neural deficits underlying persistent developmental stuttering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3088
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 28 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Chang and Guenther.


  • basal ganglia thalamocortical circuitry
  • magnetic resonance imaging
  • pathophysiology
  • stuttering
  • theoretical modeling coupled with experimental approachest


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