Stuttering Severity Modulates Effects of Non-invasive Brain Stimulation in Adults Who Stutter

Emily O’Dell Garnett, Ho Ming Chow, Ai Leen Choo, Soo Eun Chang

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15 Scopus citations


Stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder that manifests as frequent disruptions in the flow of speech, affecting 1% of adults. Treatments are limited to behavioral interventions with variable success and high relapse rates, particularly in adults. However, even in severe cases, fluency can be temporarily induced during conditions in which the speaker synchronizes his speech with external rhythmic cues, such as when reading in unison (choral speech) or with a metronome. Non-invasive neuromodulation techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have shown promise in augmenting the effects of behavioral treatment during motor and speech/language rehabilitation, but only one study to date has examined behavioral modulatory effects of tDCS in the context of stuttering. Using high-definition (HD)-tDCS electrodes, which improves focality of stimulation relative to conventional tDCS, we investigated the effects of tDCS on speech fluency and brain activation in 14 adults who stutter (AWS). Either anodal or sham stimulation was delivered on separate days over left supplementary motor area (SMA). During stimulation, participants read aloud in sync with a metronome. Measures of speech fluency and brain activity functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) were collected before and after stimulation. No significant differences in brain activity or speech fluency were found when comparing active and sham stimulation. However, stuttering severity significantly modulated the effect of stimulation: active stimulation attenuated the atypically strong association between stuttering severity and right thalamocortical network activity, especially in more severe speakers. These preliminary results warrant additional research into potential application of HD-tDCS to modulate speech motor networks to enhance fluency in stuttering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number411
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
StatePublished - 21 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation Clinical Research Grant and the Matthew K. Smith Stuttering Research Fund, both awarded to S-EC.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2019 Garnett, Chow, Choo and Chang.


  • fluency
  • fMRI
  • neuroimaging
  • neuromodulation
  • speech
  • stuttering
  • tDCS


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