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People Who Stutter Show Abnormal Brain Activity When Reading and Listening

A new imaging study finds that people who stutter show abnormal brain activity even when reading or listening. The results suggest that individuals who stutter have impaired speech due to irregular brain circuits that affect several language processing areas — not just the ones for speech production.
The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.
Stuttering affects about one in every 20 children; most grow out of it, but one in five continues to struggle. While the particular cause of stuttering is still unknown, previous studies showed reduced activity in brain areas associated with listening, and increased activity in areas involved in speech and movement. In the new study, researchers considered whether irregular activity would also be apparent when stuttering speakers silently read.
“If those patterns are also abnormal, the differences could be considered typical of the stuttering brain and not just the result of the difficulties that people who stutter have with speech production,” said senior author Kate Watkins, PhD, of the University of Oxford.
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