Make Room For The Stuttering

Brain Connections Differ In Women

Posted on: January 15, 2011

Women Who Stutter Have Different Brain Connections Than Men Who Stutter; Findings May Help Explain Why More Men Than Women Stutter  – – ScienceDaily (Nov. 18, 2010)

I could not resist re-posting this article. My risk-taking friend Lori San Martin posted this link on Facebook and made reference to me in her comment. Lori mentioned that she participated in the clinical research for this study, at NIH in Bethesda, MD. So did I, way back in 2006.

Neither of us knew each other then, so there was no way of knowing this shared connection. Interestingly, Lori chose to post this link on Face book, hoping I would see it and her comment, “Eat your heart out Pam.”  When I read the article, I recognized the lead author was the researcher conducting the trial when I flew to Bethesda that summer.

I volunteered for the study because I could. I was available, healthy and willing to help unlock any clues to the mysteries of stuttering, and particularly why women are a “minority within a minority.” Plus, they compensated you, and I had just been fired from my job for stuttering. I felt I could contribute somehow by letting interested researchers study my brain. Lori must have felt the same way.

I even went to Columbia University in 2009 for a similar study of different brain activity. Again, making sacrifices for the good and welfare of the stuttering community. (And it was a sacrifice indeed. I stayed with a friend overnight in his Brooklyn apartment with his wife and two cats. Suffice it to say, I am not a cat person).

Here is the content of the article! As Lori says, “Eat your heart out.” We already know women are special and unique.

According to new research, women who stutter show brain patterns that are distinct from men who stutter. Finding diagnostic brain markers that are unique to people who stutter could help scientists develop treatments that target those areas in the future.

The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.

About five percent of young children stutter, but up to 80 percent of them recover. Of those who don’t, most are men; about five times more men than women stutter. These new findings show one difference in brain connections that may explain the striking sex difference in chronic stuttering.

“Girls who continue to stutter past childhood may have greater deficits that are not overcome during development,” said lead author Soo-Eun Chang, PhD, of Michigan State University. “Knowing the sex-based differences in brain development that underlie stuttering may help us find sex-specific neural markers for it.”

Chang and her colleagues mapped participants’ brains using two imaging tools: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which showed brain areas active during speech, and diffusion tensor imaging, which provided structural information on connections between brain regions. They tested 18 volunteers who stutter and 14 who don’t.

The images showed that speakers who stutter had fewer connections between the motor planning and execution areas in the left hemisphere of their brains, as well as increased connections between hemispheres. In addition, the women who stutter had distinctly greater connectivity between the motor and sensory regions in both hemispheres than men who stutter. These findings may indicate that the link between motor control and sensory functions may be abnormal in women who stutter.

“These results need to be replicated in young children to examine whether this is the case at stuttering onset or whether it later appears only in adult females who continue to stutter,” Chang said.

Research was supported by the Intramural Research Programs in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders.

So, what do you think? Comments, thoughts, questions. Come on guys! Can there be discourse about this? Hmm?

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6 Responses to "Brain Connections Differ In Women"

Oh, very interesting study, I might say. Thanks Pam.

really interesting, pam. thanks.

I’ve always been interested in the right brain-left brain aspects indicated in stuttering research. But I’m not sure if I understand what is being said here.
If females who stutter into adulthood have a greater deficit that isn’t overcome in development, why are there more males who stutter? Perhaps that is not the point of this article, though. Can anyone explain more of what is being here? I’d love to read more comments.

Thanks for the shout out, Pam! I think I pretty much felt the same way as you. I was willing to spare a couple days vacation and hassle of traveling to benefit the greater good. For my whole life, I’ve always wanted to know what exactly was different from me, and what exactly I inherited from my family that makes me stutter. So I was excited to be able to “offer my brain” to try to figure out my life-long “mystery”.

I have to agree with Hannah: I understand the findings, but am not totally clear on what they really mean. Do our extra motor-sensory connections mean that we are taking sensory stuff from our environment and incorporating them into our motor actions.. thereby getting in the way of speech? Is that why environmental situations (public speaking, a phone, a tense person, etc) can “trigger” more stuttering?

I’ve read some stuff on new funding for studies with children- I think that is the key to really seeing what’s going on.

[…] And there are even research studies starting to surface about brain differences between men and women who stutter. I participated in this brain study at the NIH in 2006. I blogged about this last January (here!) […]

Im a teenager that stutters this helped me out 🙂

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