Friday, October 19, 2007

Meeting the Inghams in Santa Barbara

The weekend before last I drove up North to Santa Barbara to meet up with the Inghams. They are both professors in speech science at UCLA at Santa Barbara and clearly among the leading scientists in stuttering research. They were so kind to invite me to stay at their place. They have a fantastic house in the hills of Santa Barbara. Roger Ingham showed me around in his BMW with the words "I like it much better than my Ferrari that I had before"... :-)

We had very good scientific discussions but also engaged in gossip. They were not too enthusiastic on medication to reduce stuttering due to lack of good evidence. I was questioning how this fits in with several reports (see previous blog posts) from people who stutter who took a medication and said they improved. The discrepancy might be due the existence of sub types. Or because the gains are not overt, but internal. I argued that stuttering is not just a malfunctioning of communication of the message from the person who stutteres to the listener, but that stuttering also affects the mental creation and therefore quality of the message. People who stutter either spent a lot of efforts avoiding or generating fluent speech or dealing with secondary symptoms and states of anxiety. This leaves them much less room to create good messages. I am so much better at creating messages when I stutter less and am not under time pressure. And, the medication might make this easier. Or, there were no improvements apart from placebo-enduced and due to weak methodology.

I also discussed with Roger Ingham his past, current and future research. He has a multi-million research grant and still works very closely with the brain researchers around Peter Fox in San Antonio (Texas). The Inghams go to Texas and stay there for longer periods of time, though they did not express great admiration for San Antonio's beauty. Regarding research, they are clearly moving in the direction of theory testing using methods like TMS (knocking out brain regions temporarily) to test causality, and dual tasks and fluency-enhancing setups to control the driving variables of stuttering better.

1 comment:

Jerome said...

Cool. I admire your enthusiasm! And it leads you to all kind of cool places as well :)