Home > Stuttering.Microblog > Prejudicial pseudoscience even from within our own…

Prejudicial pseudoscience even from within our own…

Ran across this post today.  Apparently, researchers think they can selectively remove specific fearful memories in rats–so theoretically they could do the same thing in people. Now-I’m not sure how one could know that: (a) fearful rat memories are being removed, and (b) these memories are being removed without side effects–so right there, I’ve got a few internal validity questions.  But what I do not understand is that a (stuttering SLP) blogger writes that this technology’s “application for stuttering is obvious“.

No, I’m not getting it.  Just exactly how is removing bad memories an obvious application to stuttering?  This perspective assumes that stuttering is psychological in origin, and if I can “forget” something traumatic in my life that causes stuttering (or at least distract me from it), then I’ll be fluent?  Or that it will help me?  That a traumatic life event is the cause of persistent developmental stuttering?  *smacks forehead*

When is enough, enough?  When do we give up on bad ideas?  Is some 70+ years enough?  The author of the blog is a legitimate nice guy, and I’m confident he’s a good therapist; but how on earth are we to make significant improvements in our scientific or clinical understanding of stuttering when we’re still on the 1930s playbook?  It would be insane to expect different or better results from the same tired actions or perspectives.  It’s time for a paradigm change…

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  1. March 14th, 2009 at 10:10 | #1

    Thanks for drawing attention to the first test post on my not-yet-configured blog (sheesh!) At any rate, you’re confusing “traumatic memories” (a term I didn’t even use in my post, BTW) with threat and fear conditioning (a term I should have used to help avoid confusion, although conditioning IS a specific type of memory.) My paradigm for stuttering is that human threat responses interact with some specific and perhaps genetically determined neurological weakness(es) or characteristic(s) related to speech. (A number of candidates have surfaced lately.) I don’t think this has anything to do with the “1930’s playbook.” If you don’t think there’s any conditioning involved with stuttering, I think there might be a problem with your medical paradigm. After all, Pagoclone is an anti-anxiety drug that would affect conditioned fear reactions. You also ignored my assertion that a lot of work would have to be done before anything like this could be considered for humans. And, my friend, this is not pseudoscience. Right now, the study just demonstrates the role of the lateral amygdala in fear conditioning and (more importantly) also provides a way this could be measured in humans that’s more accurate than brain scans, which detect only relatively large areas of brain activity. But if a way of specifically targeting neurons involved in discrete types of unhelpful threat conditioning could be found (a stretch to be sure) this certainly could be a possibility for intervention in the physical substrates of stuttering and a number of other behaviors. In the meantime, I’d like to see this detection method applied in stuttering research.


  2. ig88sir
    March 14th, 2009 at 10:42 | #2

    A paradign shift due to powerful computer technology! Alas computers will will save us Neo!


  3. Cricket
    March 14th, 2009 at 13:02 | #3

    Question: I know stuttering isn’t caused by fear, anxiety, temperature, etc.

    Is it true, though, that they can make it worse, in the short or long term?


  4. Greg @ Stuttering.me
    March 14th, 2009 at 16:51 | #4

    Actually, I wonder if you’re right, @ig88sir. It’s my understanding that some people are essentially using chaos mathematics in attempts to create a whole-brain neurological model on a cellular level. So when we figure out how the brain works on that kind of level, things like stuttering will be less cryptic. As it stands now, reading brain scans is like trying to read satellite photography…we see structures without really understanding inter-personal (or inter-cellular) dynamics.


  5. Greg @ Stuttering.me
    March 14th, 2009 at 17:11 | #5

    Hi Darrell, Thanks for your comments. Dialog is always a good thing. I appreciate your time in clarifying your post.

    I’d like to clarify the neuromechancial agents of action when it comes to Pagaclone. While it does have some anti-anxiety consequences, it’s primary interaction w/ stuttering is to modulate GABA, which in turn, modulated D2 activity. (It was tried as an anti-anxiety med, and was found to be relative ineffective.) Pagaclone offers an indirect way of reducing D2 uptake; any anti-anxiety consequences are an added benefit. The benefit of the indirect D2 regulation is that most (if not all) of the common side-effects associated w/ more direct D2 antagonists are avoided.

    And as far as the conditioned-fear aspect of stuttering, there are two ways to think about it. It can either be causal to the pathology, or a result of the pathology. (And I am noting that you never made this distinction.) If it’s causal, then it really isn’t all that far off from the 1930’s playbook (i.e., stutterers are anxious, nervous, fearful people–and therefore they stutter). If it’s the result of it–then I sure as heck hope we can find a better way to manage the symptoms of stuttering than trying to obliterate a purpose-serving neurophysiological phenomenon (i.e., fear). (Further, if this ‘fear conditioning’ is a secondary effect, then why bother with it in the first place? Wouldn’t it be time better spent dealing the primary underlying etiology?)

    But I digress… Ultimately, it sounds like we just have fundamentally different views on the pathology.


  6. Greg @ Stuttering.me
    March 14th, 2009 at 17:13 | #6

    @Cricket I think it’s safe to say that emotions can play a factor relative to severity, but not the presence or absence of the disorder.

    I know that there’s a myth that says, “I don’t stutter when I’m alone…” But a quick literature review of some decent studies does not support this notion at all. Stuttering still exists, although with less overt severity.


  7. Pamm
    March 14th, 2009 at 19:42 | #7

    I stutter when I am alone, when practicing a presentation or talking out loud to myself. I do that a lot and its perfectly healthy.

    All this dialogue is good stuff.


  8. Greg @ Stuttering.me
    March 15th, 2009 at 13:15 | #8

    @ Pam… Yeah, we do stutter when we’re alone. People that say differently haven’t recorded themselves for any length of time! There’s been some interesting studies on this too—like one that tricked people: they recorded them (alone) when they thought they weren’t being recorded, while being on videotape, in front of an audience of 3 and an audience of 15. There was a difference in stuttering severity between the audience and no-audience conditions, but everyone stuttered in all conditions. (We do it a lot, and it’s perfectly healthy!)


  9. March 17th, 2009 at 00:51 | #9

    Thanks for the response, Greg. In my model of stuttering, threat and (later) fear reactions have both a causal role and a role in exacerbating and locking in stuttering. The genesis of stuttering seems to involve a very complex interaction among a number of factors, creating a virtually chaotic neurological state. I don’t think that children who stutter need to have abnormal reactions to original speech errors if there is some weakness in the speech system. I suspect that there may be some distinct reactive characteristics of children who stutter, but they certainly aren’t the stereotypical ones. Anyone who has worked with identical twins and seen the more conventionally “reactive” or “vulnerable” twin progress more rapidly in therapy would realize this. There is a huge amount of threat and fear conditioning research that is relatively unknown to the stuttering research community. The message of this research (which most all other disciplines have accepted to a greater or lesser extent) is that conditioned responses underlie and influence all human behavior. So there’s really no way to understand stuttering without understanding the role of fear and threat conditioning. The power of this conditioning is so strong that it can virtually swamp anything else, perhaps including causal factors. I suspect this is why there are so many types of stuttering when stuttering also looks eerily the same (while creating very similar internal experiences) from person to person. You’re right, though. I think we do have different fundamental views — at least in some areas. Thanks again. Darrell.


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