What research is being conducted on stuttering?

Researchers around the world are exploring ways to improve the early identification and treatment of stuttering and to identify its causes. For example, scientists have been working to identify the possible genes responsible for the types of stuttering that tend to run in families. NIDCD scientists have identified three such genes -- one on chromosome 12 and two on chromosome 16 -- that are the source of stuttering in some study participants in Pakistan, England, and the United States. The three genes, called GNPTAB, GNPTG, and NAGPA, work together to help in the breakdown and recycling of cellular components. Interestingly, other mutations in GNPTAB and GNPTG are tied to two serious metabolic disorders, called mucolipidosis (ML) II and III, which are also caused by problems with cellular recycling. Researchers are now studying how this defect in the recycling of cell components leads to specific deficits in speech fluency.

Researchers are working to help speech-language pathologists determine which children are most likely to outgrow their stuttering and which children are at risk for continuing to stutter into adulthood. In addition, researchers are examining ways to identify groups of individuals who exhibit similar stuttering patterns and behaviors that may be associated with a common cause.

Scientists are using brain imaging tools such as PET (positron emission tomography) and functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to investigate brain activity in people who stutter. NIDCD-funded researchers also are looking at brain imaging as a way to help treat people who stutter. Researchers are studying whether volunteer patients who stutter can learn to recognize, with the help of a computer program, specific speech patterns that are linked to stuttering and to avoid using those patterns when speaking.

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