Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I am not going to the Oxford Dysfluency Conference

Some good news for some! I decided not to go to the Oxford Dysfluency Conference. It's just too expensive. First, I was not given the reduced fee unlike at all other conferences in the past including Oxford. Apparently, Elsevier is not allowing this. And then they charge 20% VAT, because Elsevier organises it and not Dave Rowley as part of his university. Claiming back VAT is about as easy as understanding stuttering. So I would end up with a bill of over 1200 Euros for 3 days. Too bad. It was a nice place, and an OK conference.

The only person non-sensitive to the price are those who are paid for by government and on blind travelling grants. I also heard that others from less well-off countries or therapist not funded by their department are unable to attend.

In general, conference organisers like Elsevier are destroying real science and draining the system out of money with expensive conferences and journals.

Death to Elsevier and long live Plos and privately-organised conferences! There is a BSA conference one week later. Maybe I am attending it, and try to get a few people together to talk science.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Breaking News: Chinese dopamine genes not-confirmed

Finally some evidence that stuttering research is actually following the scientific method. In a highly unusual move, Drayna's team has actually tried to replicate a study rather than churn out new stuff. They looked at the Chinese gene study, and could not replicate the study.

Kanstantsin made me aware of this new study (that was probably finished years ago but only now published! So the wider community was deprived out this valuable information despite Drayna being funded by the publicly-funded NIH). He writes:
Drayna is one of the authors. of "Evaluation of the association between polymorphisms at the DRD2 locus and stuttering."

They basically tried to replicate the 2009 study from chinese group (I think you blogged about it). [Yes, I did in More Genes from China!] "Association between dopaminergic genes (SLC6A3 and DRD2) and stuttering among Han Chinese."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On the origin of our feared letter

I had an interesting thought. I am currently revising a late draft of my upcoming book, and I have a section on stuttering. I was writing about associations with different letters that stutterers might acquire. So for some the letter /d/ might be a problem for others the letter /m/.

Then I realized that /d/ is the first letter of /daddy/, and /m/ of /mommy/. So I was thinking that maybe we develop an association between a stuttering event and the letter that we most or first used as a child in speaking our first words.

So a child might first say /mommy/, and obviously she will first experience delays of speech initiation on the letter /m/. And the brain will look for correlations, and realize that when I have to say /m/, I am likely to have issues. So the brain stores an association between the letter /m/ and a stuttering event. My guess is that if you fear /d/, you might have been a daddy child! Or in other languages, /p/ for /papa/.

Students: here is a final year project: test my theory!
  1. find stutterers 
  2. ask them about their feared letter.
  3. ask them whether they were mummy or daddy children.
  4. find stutterers from different countries where daddy does not start with /d/ or mother not with /m/.
  5. analyse data: especially compare countries.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stuttering WWII general

Nathan found a stuttering WWII US general:
This was never mentioned on any famous PWS list. Apparently there was an American WWI and II general who stuttered significantly. Here is the Time Magazine article. The stuttering isn't mentioned until page 3.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A stutterer reads the news: Please support Alex's campaign!!

I got a request from Alex von Gudenberg, who created and leads the only healthcare-approved clinic for stuttering in Germany. They have launched a campaign for more public awareness. Please support his campaign. They have asked for the news to be read by a person who stutters! Luckily only one day! ;-)
Dear fellow stutterers,

I am the director of the Institute of the Kasseler Stuttering Therapy (KST) and was a severe stutterer.

By chance we created a campaign against discrimination of stutterers in Germany, which is becoming quite successful. The film maker Henning Burk, a stutterer himself, did a report for a TV station (3SAT) about stuttering in our institute when The King's Speech started. He had the idea to ask for stutterers to read the prime time news in the two major German channels to achieve more tolerance and attention for stutterers.

It started more as a campaign without real chances of realisation. But now a website with information and on-line signing of the petition exists: HERE.

Stutterers in major German cities supported this campaign by collecting signatures at the movie theatres, in addition to press releases and TV appearances in support of the idea. The German media (radio, TV, print media) jumped it.

About 1000 people have signed so far.

Therefore I wonder, if this might have potential for a worldwide campaign. It does not seem too ambitious to get Colin Firth and David Seidler and other as supporters.
What do you think of this idea?

Best wishes from Germany

Alexander von Gudenberg
(You can also email him: AWvGudenberg at

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slate Columnist Nathan Heller stutters

Nathan Heller has made me aware of his article on The King's Speech in Slate. Nathan works there as a columnist, stutters himself, and is a fan of my blog!

If you want to hear an intelligent and insightful review on The King's Speech: check out his article.

Amnesia cures stuttering?

Stuttering Stanley asks:
Tom, do you think that if a stutterer had sudden total amnesia, he or she would cease to stutter? I ask because I surmise that if I have times where I am fluent, then why can't I find a way to ALWAYS be fluent? Doesn't that indicate that I have the capacity to be 100% fluent? Maybe if I forgot about would disappear?

My answer is the following. If you have a total amnesia (where I include semantic memory but also associative memory), you will be like a young child at onset. You have a brain that is prone to abnormally long and frequent jamming or delays of speech initiation. These delays will feel long but just like a mechanical failure in the sense of accidentally hitting a chair because you had a glitch in your motor code for walking. You will not feel any fear or nervousness. And your jamming will probably only be noticeable in very stressful or demanding situations. And you will not have any secondary behaviour. However, over time you will feel the functional handicap and the social reaction. Coupled with your knowledge of what is normal speech and what role you want to play in society as a person, you will start to react to your jam-prone system and develop secondaries. You will add tension to get out what you want to say more quickly. You will also learn to fear certain words and situations. This associative learning will then trigger more stuttering and nervousness.

To sum up, your neurobiology is still there, and the information content that you have lost in amnesia will be filled again with learned behaviour, fears, and beliefs. BUT THEY WILL LIKELY TO BE DIFFERENT TO YOUR ORIGINAL LEARNED BEHAVIOURS, FEARS, AND BELIEFS.

You can be 100% fluent but only if you manager to control your jamming in two respects: (a) you take measures to reduce the neurobiological jamming, such as staying calm in demanding speaking situations, sticking to pauses, shortening your sentences, and so on (b) you take measures to prevent yourself/your brain from launching a reaction to jamming that is counter-productive to speaking fluently.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wireless neurostimulation for stuttering?

Manik sent me a link to a venture capital enterprise, Microtransponders, which developped the SAINT™ System, a wireless neurostimulation technology platform to treat neurological disease. He is excited about a possible application to stuttering. Nature has already published an article on treating tinnitus in an animal model.

The website, technology, and research looks solid, and should not be rejected off hand. I will write to them and ask whether they have ever considered stuttering. I am not exactly sure how a treatment for stuttering should work. As far as I am aware, stimulation has only increased and never decreased stuttering. However, every new approach should be checked for.

Let us assume the technology works, would you accept having implants, even if very small, implanted in your brain? I can only see severe stutterers considering this option.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Another article on the King's Speech

A reader asks me to post this link to an interesting article (apart from the science part which is not wrong but very fuzzy.)
You are an inspiration and a hero to the stuttering community, and a
role model for children who stutter. PWS trust you to be independent,
fair, and not influenced by anyone.

You showed that PWS are not hopeless victims, but smart and driven.
You have hundreds if not thousands of loyal readers who support you
and thank you. But you also have a few enemies.

There is a article written by a female PWS (I am not sure she knows
much about the causes of stuttering, the way she explained it sounded
fishy to me). Can you post this on your blog.