B4072 - Subtypes of persistent developmental stammering - 20/05/2022

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Michel Belyk | Edge Hill University (United Kingdom)
Title of project: 
Subtypes of persistent developmental stammering
Proposal summary: 

There are speech therapies that can help them to cope, but most children will recover on their own. However, about one person in every hundred keeps stammering into adulthood. Stammering is tends to run in families, which means that it is genetic. There are also markers in the brain that help us to understand how stammering happens. However, they don’t seem to be very consistent across people. This project proposes to use a big data base of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and genetics data covering thousands of parents and children, many of whom will have stammered. These data will be used to understand both how the brains of people who stammer are different from fluent speakers, and how they are different from each other. With a greater understanding of what makes some brains stammer, it is hoped that we can inform the development of better speech therapies. People who stammer also have a strong interest in understanding why they are the way they are and are growing community advocacy movements around the idea of neurodiversity. These advocacy groups will benefit as we learn just how diverse their brain can be.

Impact of research: 
Stammering may be amenable to a personalised medicine approach to speech-therapy. Speech and language therapists train people who stammer to use techniques that either enhance fluency or enable stammering in a more controlled manner, usually by changing some aspect of the way that they speak. This may include interventions related to muscle tension, speech timing, auditory feedback, as well dealing with anxiety about the prospect of stammering. These therapies have good efficacy when measured at the clinic, but high rates of relapse (~70%) as patients frequently discontinue the techniques learned in therapy when faced with real-world communication. Understanding variability in the underlying causes of stammering is an initial step towards a personalised medicine approach to speech therapy. Understanding individual differences in the underlying neurobiology of stammering may be used to generate testable predictions about which treatments connect with the mechanisms underlying an individual patient’s condition – matching patients with the treatments that most closely address underlying causes of their stammer. The stammering community are beginning to understand and reference their condition as a form of neurodiversity, in line with contemporary trends that have improved quality of life for people on the Autism Spectrum. In addition to the implications of the proposed research for understanding aetiology and improving treatment, the proposed research aligns directly with the broader advocacy interests of people who stammer.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 17 May, 2022
Date proposal approved: 
Friday, 20 May, 2022
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Speech/language problem, Medical imaging, Speech and language