Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Subscribe to the Stuttering Brain

You can subscribe to my blog using RSS. Here is what you need to do. This is for the FireFox web browser.
As you read this, look at the address area (htttp://...), and you notice the orange symbol at the end of the address area. Click on the symbol, and you get to a page that allows you to subscribe to the feeds, click "Subscribe Now", and a link bookmark is added to your bookmark bar. If you click it, you can see all the past posts, and you can choose which one you want to read. Once you read one post, the symbol will change next to that post. Good luck! :-)

Where could medication act?

I came up with various systems where a drug could act and improve fluency:

1) the gene expression on genes (partially) causing 2). A drug might inhibit the expression of some genes that make the speech system less stable.

2) the malfunctioning speech system itself. A drug might increase improve a malfunctioning system.

3) systems that decrease the effectiveness of 2) like emotions. A drug might shield the speech system from emotions and work overload, i.e. you can talk as if you are on your own.

4) the primary stuttering behaviour like blocks. A drug might ease blocks and thereby inhibit triggering other stuttering behaviour. You still stutter but softer and less loss of control.

5) the secondary behaviours like loosing eye contact, loosing control, tension, contortions, etc. A drug might inhibit the expression of bad habits or allow a greater control over them.

6) the tertiary behaviours like anxiety, fear, and avoidance. A drug might reduce these, and allow for a better quality of life.

7) the ability of stutterers to successfully implement a behavioural therapy like fluency shaping or dysfluency shaping (van Ripper) short-term and long-term. A drug might make you learn new behaviour faster and more lasting, in fact the drug might be mimicking the brain conditions of the few that are able to follow through and make lasting behavioural change.

Any more fields of attack? Let me know.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mixing social and natural smile

Let me continue with the social and natural smile analogy: see last post. Often you can see a mixture or a transition between a social and a natural smile. Often, a social smile encourages a natural smile. A natural smile might turn into a social smile, if the joke ends badly. It is as if both systems access your face muscles to different degrees.

I experience similarly in my speech. When I am into the "social" speech like imitating a foreign accent, I am 100% fluent. However, it is not easy to switch immediately from "natural" speech to "social" speech, especially when I stuttered severely before. I need to shut up for 2-3 seconds, "clear my system", start very slowly, and then it usually works. Once I am into it, it's fine.

Interestingly, I just realised that the same is true when I am using a fluency shaping technique! So could we say that these techniques are "social" speech, and is therefore often felt articificial? However, when I am really into the "social" speech, I can somehow modulate it more and bring "myself" (whatever that may mean) more in. So I start with a social smile which goes into a semi or full natural smile...

Keep on smiling :-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The social smile of stuttering

I spoke to a friend of mine who leads a neuroscience research group, and explained to his astonishment that people with PDS can speak fluently under certain circumstances while singing, imitating a foreign accent, chorus reading, and acting. I also told him about the theory that there are two pathways involved in speaking: one that lets us talk without thinking how we talk, and one that lets us conscuiously modulate our speech. And he mentioned the social vs natural smile phenomena.

People can naturally smile, where they do not control how they move their face muscles, and give a social smile where they decide to smile (even if the joke was bad or they hate their opposite!). A social smile has evolutionary advantages because you can mask your own intentions for the greater good. So let me apply this analogy to stuttering.

When we make a "social" speech, we control how we want to come across. When we make a "natural" speech, we just talk and dont care or are aware of how we speak, it's done automatically. And, in people with PDS, the ability of "natural" speech is sensitive to all sorts of interferences!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Latest from the Nordic Neuropsychology

I insisted until Per Alm gave me a statement of what happened at the symposium!!

At the Nordic Neuropsychology Conference a 3 hour symposium on stuttering was held. The speakers were Katrin Neumann, Gerald Maguire, Hans-Georg Bosshardt, and Per Alm. (Lutz Jäncke was unfortunately unable to attend.) A general conclusion may be that the understanding of stuttering in relation to the functions of the brain is developing relatively fast for the moment. However, it is also becoming increasingly clear that the issues indeed are very complex, and will require a broad range of research approaches for a long time. One aspect that may be mentioned is the progress in brain imaging, which seem to start to shed light on mechanisms for late recovery of stuttering (in teenagers and adults).
I agree with the complexity part. We have hit the complexity wall. Stuttering is a malfunctioning of a highly complex system of interacting modules. I fear a big obstable is that the majority of researchers are intellectually badly equipped to tackle these challenges: we need brains with multi-disciplinary expertise combined with extraordinary lucid conceptualisation ability, rigorous quantitative thinking and an understanding of the nature of complex systems.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I am studying Neuropharmacology

I have decided to learn more about neuropharmacology, and bought the text book The Biochemical Basis of Neuropharmacology by Cooper et al.

Several of my readers are more knowledgeable about stuttering medication, neurotransmitters, and so on. This needs to stop! :-) In a few weeks, I'll be able to make more informed comments.

My current view on neuropharmacology and stuttering is that it might very well help people who stutter but is no cure. The brain chemicals modulate the activity of different brain systems, a bit like different weather impacts a big city in different ways. Dry weather makes traffic jams on highways less likely, but construction work or rush hour still leads to traffic jams, but less severe ones.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No posts

Hi, I havent been posting for a while. I am sorry about that. I'll promise to post soon again.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What should parents do?

I often get asked by parents and relatives what they should do about their stuttering child.

Here is what I tell them:

1) 80% will recover naturally, so with a bit of luck it will go away.

2) go to the speech and language therapist to check whether any other linguistic or neurological issues exist that might create or enhance stuttering. But dont expect them to have a cure.

3) getting the child fluent might be unachievable but keeping the psychological and social impact of stuttering at bay is possible. Talk to the child openly about stuttering with avoiding negatives but also irrealistic positives (stuttering is no handicap at all, it's the others that make it a handicap).Maybe point to other relatives or friends that stutter and tell them that they are successful in life despite their stuttering.

4) get on the Internet and read about stuttering. So you become more knowledgeable and understand better what it feels like to stutter.

5) Re fluency treatment, I find it hard making clear statements. You can try speech exercises and they shouldnt hurt but how much do they help? You could follow a program like Lidcombe or others.

Any more ideas?