Similarities in speech and white matter characteristics in idiopathic developmental stuttering and adult-onset stuttering

Soo Eun Chang, Anna Synnestvedt, John Ostuni, Christy L. Ludlow

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18 Scopus citations


Adult-onset stuttering (AS) typically occurs following neurological and/or psychological trauma, considered different from developmental stuttering (DS), which starts during early childhood with few if any new cases reported after adolescence. Here we report four cases of AS, two with apparent psychological trigger and two without, none with evidence of neurological injury, and none conforming to previously reported characteristics of psychogenic stuttering. We asked whether this group of AS would have similar speech and neuroanatomical characteristics to those with DS. We conducted blinded analyses of speech samples in four AS cases and 14 cases of DS on type, frequency, and loci of disfluencies. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) was conducted to compare white matter tracts using fractional anisotropy (FA). We found that AS did not differ significantly from DS in any of the speech characteristics measured. On DTI, DS had significantly increased FA relative to controls in the right superior longitudinal tract. AS cases showed a similar trend for increases in these regions when compared to controls. The results of this study suggest that symptoms of idiopathic stuttering can begin during adulthood, and that similar neuroanatomical differences from controls may be associated with both developmental and adult-onset idiopathic stuttering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-469
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The authors wish to thank Dr. Edythe Wiggs for her help in conducting neuropsychology evaluations and Sandra Martin for her help in conducting speech–language–hearing evaluations.


  • Adult-onset stuttering
  • DTI
  • Developmental stuttering
  • Speech
  • White matter


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