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Speech-activated myoclonus masquerading as stuttering?

Ran across an interesting teaser article from pubmed entitled Speech-activated myoclonus masquerading as stuttering.  No, it has no abstract.  No, it’s not printed yet.  No, I can’t seem to download a digital pre-print.  No, I’ve not read the freakin’ article.  Yes, I’ll have to wait until it magically shows up at our library.  So what is myoclonus?  Well, I did a little reading on it–and it seems pretty interesting.  (Funny, pretty much all the online resources say the *same*exact*thing*; so there’s a whole lotta copy/pasting going on!)

So what is myoclonus?  Well, let’s break it apart.  Myo meaning “muscle”; clonus meaning “violent, confused motion”.  So we’re talking about confused muscle motion–such as involuntary jerks or spasms.  The most identifiable example is that body jerk that we all get from time to time *right* when we’re about to fall asleep.

Now–there are (behaviorally identified) subtypes of myoclonus out there…and the one that seems most stutter-esque is “action myoclonus”.  This is “characterized by muscular jerking triggered or intensified by voluntary movement or even the intention to move. It may be made worse by attempts at precise, coordinated movements.”  So I can see it… Maybe.  I’d like to read more about myoclonus and read the article as well.

The “cause” of myoclonus seems to be pretty wishy-washy.  The best description that I could gather is that there is “decreased inhibitory signaling from cranial neurons.”  And this could make a bit of sense relative to stuttering–as there have been a few long-standing theories suggesting that stuttered speech may stem from errors in physiological speech “feedforward” and “feedback”. (Postma & Kolk come to mind…)

Anyway–interesting to see what all comes from this…  And to get my grubby little paws on some data 🙂

Update 1:  A reader was kind of enough to pass along the article, and the format was more interesting than the paper itself.  It was a single page, 2 paragraph paper (with embedded video of the client).  Anyway–pretty interesting.  The client got sick around age 21 and “stuttered” ever since.  I’m suspecting that there was some viral infection that passed the blood/brain barrier and likely effected the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit–thereby resulting in the involuntary neural activations.  (But let’s get serious–I’ve got no clue..)  Further, the idea of linking speech myoclonus and stuttering isn’t new at all; Larry Molt wrote a good article on the concept for ISAD.

Update 2: Interesting.  I viewed the video of the client, and his speech does represent some aspects of “stuttering” in the textbok sense, but my stutter-senses weren’t tingling while watching the video.  Another nugget of trivia was revealed when the client said that stress and anxiety have an impact on his severity.  (This should give creedance to BGTC involvement.)

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  1. June 3rd, 2009 at 18:36 | #1

    I barely understood any of this, except the brain stuff, which I am very interested in lately. But the involuntary jerks or spasms caught my eye. I remember about a year and 1/2 ago, I fessed up to my student clinician and shared that sometimes I have spasms or tremors in my lips and throat area when getting stuck in a stuttering moment.
    For some reason I am more comfortable calling it that than a “block”. I don’t block. That spasm thing happened to me last night. I was trying to say “college” and the hard “cah” sound just like dragged and tremored, it felt like something was caught. When that happens, it feels like an involuntary spasm, and very herky-jerky. And it caught for what seemed like forever,and then just stopped.
    But I don’t block! 🙂


    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    I think much of the issue is that the concept of a ‘block’ is really, really tough to define. Maybe I’ll post about it sometime, but I prefer the concept of “failure to initiate the speech gesture”.


  2. Leo
    June 14th, 2009 at 20:24 | #2

    Greg, are you talking about this video?



    Greg @ Stuttering.me Reply:

    Yeah–that’s it, actually. Wonder how it got on YouTube? 🙂


  3. Jennifer
    April 25th, 2011 at 21:21 | #3

    I call them “glitches” mostly because when it first started it was verbal and sounded like a skipping CD. It’s hard to describe.


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