Developmental stuttering is a speech disorder that disrupts the ability to produce speech fluently. While stuttering is typically diagnosed based on one's behavior during speech production, some models suggest that it involves more central representations of language, and thus may affect language perception as well. Here we tested the hypothesis that developmental stuttering implicates neural systems involved in language perception, in a task that manipulates comprehensibility without an overt speech production component. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) signals in adults who do and do not stutter, while they were engaged in an incidental speech perception task. We found that speech perception evokes stronger activation in adults who stutter (AWS) compared to controls, specifically in the right inferior frontal gyrus (RIFG) and in left Heschl's gyrus (LHG). Significant differences were additionally found in the lateralization of response in the inferior frontal cortex: AWS showed bilateral inferior frontal activity, while controls showed a left lateralized pattern of activation. These findings suggest that developmental stuttering is associated with an imbalanced neural network for speech processing, which is not limited to speech production, but also affects cortical responses during speech perception.
- Functional lateralization
- Persistent developmental stuttering
- Signal correlated noise
- Speech perception