Home > Stuttering.Microblog > Recent stuttering reserach is like “that rug really tied the room together”

Recent stuttering reserach is like “that rug really tied the room together”

Make no doubt about it, I am a fan of The Big Lebowski.  But what’s more germane to this discussion is how the emerging neurophysiological perspective is slowly beginning to converge into a single unified perspective.  In the past, you had people citing (just the): cerebellum, premotor cortices, temporal cortices, etc…  Everybody was documenting neural functional errors without putting it into a proper (big picture) context.  (Fortunately, the field didn’t get sucked into past mistakes and lock-in to one perspective and subsequently confuse the symptoms as the cause of stuttering.)

So this recent article attempts to look at the big-picture neurophysiological activation patterns between stutterers and nonstutterers.  Usually, I’m wary of such an idea–because it’s impossible to differentiate between a cause of stuttering and the characteristics (or result) of the stuttering phenomenon.  But if we keep that in mind, this sounds like a powerful study…

In essence, it’s comparing the whole-brain activation patterns between stutterers and nonstutterers in a non-speaking-task.  And this non-speaking-task is a stroke of genius.  Because as soon as you include the act of speech, you’ll include all the bodily compensations that stutterers will automatically do to try and compensate for the neural stuttered state.  This point bears repeating: The fact that this is a speech-less task better approximates the stuttered neural state; we’re bypassing so much of the garbage that has invalidated research of the past.

And the results seem to support past (good) neurophysiological research–but it does it in a holistic fashion.  We’re beginning to put the pieces together as a puzzle, rather than inspect them one at a time (without referencing them as a big-picture).  So in that sense, studies such as these are like that rug really tied the room together.

There are a whole lotta implications to the most recent article–too many to discuss in any one post.  But it’s good to see progress.  Hopefully, this progress will change the way we fundamentally view the stuttering phenomenon, which will lead to new ideas and new venues of research.

Take hope point: Stuttering is NOT a speech pathology.  It is a neural state.  The stuttered neural state is manifested in the behavior of expressive communication.

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  1. April 17th, 2009 at 08:52 | #1

    why covert picture-naming task?
    why not just picture naming task?

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    Good Q, bond..I’ll answer it below…

    [Reply]

  2. April 17th, 2009 at 09:05 | #2

    Yeah, I am curious too, as how one can name pictures covertly. I think the whole idea is fascinating, and I am wholly fasciated with my own expressive communication. I think I express myself better because I stutter.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    Ok-bond & Pam, here’s why. The disorder of stuttering isn’t a speaking behavior. It’s a neural state. So when you’re trying to measure the neurology of stuttering during a speaking task–it becomes confounded. You’re measuring the neurology of stuttering + the body’s attempts to try and compensate for the stuttering + the body’s motor activation to produce stuttered speech. So the act of speaking would invalidate the results.

    Now–a covert picture naming task is when you would say (silently to yourself) the name of the picture. So it’s the stuttered neural state – all the motoric symptoms of stuttering. So in theory, the covert naming tasks should give us a clearer view of the stuttered neural state, rather than the symptoms of the stuttered neural state.

    In my estimation, it was a very smart move for the researchers to do…

    [Reply]

  3. April 17th, 2009 at 10:19 | #3

    so, if I said something silently to myself, it is not stuttered. How can a researcher tell what motoric stuttering symtoms are going on? Do I have something strapped to my head while I am silently saying this? When I talk silently to myself – which I do a lot – I don’t stutter.

    Pardon my dumbness on this – I just don’t get it.

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    You’re still in the mindset that the stuttering phenomenon IS stuttered speech. It isn’t. Stuttered speech is the result or consequence of our stuttered neural state.

    For over a century, we’ve convinced ourselves that stuttering is a *speech* disorder. It isn’t. And there’s tons of research demonstrating that stuttering appears in any number of other expressive modalities. So we need to retrain ourselves to stop thinking that stuttered speech = the stuttering pathology. Stuttering is not speech.

    If we have the flu, the pathology is the influeza viral infection. The body responds with a fever, nausea, etc… So there’s the pathology and the bodily compensation/reaction to the pathology.

    Stuttering is a neurological phenomenon. Stuttered speech is the bodily compensation/reaction to the neurological phenomenon.

    So again, stuttering is not speech. Stuttering is just revealed in the act of speaking. Make sense?

    [Reply]

    Pam Reply:

    Yes, thanks for breaking it down. It is a new and more complex way of looking at it. And thanks for affirming that I am not dumb! 🙂 I sometimes feel a bit inadequate when trying to keep up with the educated peeps I run with – but I think I hold my own pretty well.

    Do you think the SLP profession will come around to thinking in this way, and being innovative with what is offered, or are we doomed for another century with “same-old same-old?”

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    I honestly think that as the current generation of professionals die-out, the younger generation will be much more accepting of stuttering as a medical condition.

    Did I ever tell you that when I wrote an article on stuttering for ASHA, they edited out my sentence calling it a medical condition? *smacks forehead*

    Cricket Reply:

    What are examples of what they would look for? Muscle tension? Sweat production? MRI of brain or elsewhere? Time to hit button after red light goes on?

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    They were looking at whole brain activation patters of stutterers and fluents while in covert naming tasks. (i.e., imagining the name of the naming task). The theory is that you can: (1) Average the activation patterns of the fluents and then the stutterers, and (2) quantify the difference between the two, so that (3) you can isolate differences in neural processing between the two populations.

    This premise does have it’s problems, but it’s interesting to look at. And (at least in this study), the data does support past studies performed w/ completely different methodologies.

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    And you are not dumb! This is a hard and new way to look at stuttering, and the entire field of SLP still hasn’t gotten it yet!

    [Reply]

    Pam Reply:

    Make the elephant dance, yes?

    [Reply]

    Pam Reply:

    ASHA edited/censored your article? Did they ask your permission as author to do that?

    [Reply]

    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    It was one of those deals where I could have fought it, and they could have not published it. And since I needed the pub, I just let them have their candy.

    It just amazed me that it happened in the first place; very telling, I believe.

  4. Cricket
    April 17th, 2009 at 14:18 | #4

    Thanks for clarifying what they looked at. Neat!

    [Reply]

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