Friday, September 25, 2009

Epigenetics in stuttering

A reader questions whether epigenetics plays a role in stuttering. Here is my quick introduction. Each cell has a DNA molecule which is a very very long chain of genes. The genes are the instructions to the cell on how to produce proteins, the building blocks of our body. At any moment a cell is only reading certain genes to produce proteins because these are the proteins the cell needs now. Thus two people with identical DNA might not express exactly the same genes because due to environmental difference the cells might be compelled to use gene A or use another gene B or none. For example, mice with a certain mutant gene leading to memory difficulties in normal environment recover from this memory dysfunction in highly enriched environment with lots of toys to play with.

The message is simple: Our DNA determines what proteins are produced in our body but the environment colours the cells' choices. Think of the DNA as a library with cookbooks (instructions to make meals) and of the environment and the cells as the readers influenced by their surroundings on the choice of the cookbook. You can only cook a meal from the cookbooks, but you have the choice.

Back to the reader's question. Does epigenetics play a role in stuttering? My answer: I don't know! Probably only marginally in some cases.


Anonymous said...

If you don't know....then maybe it is not good to guess "only marginally" and say "in some cases"

Just give the quick introduction and say you don't know.

What classes are you taking now?
(after you passed the neuroscience class)

Tom Weidig said...

I say marginally in some cases, but if it had a strong effect with would probably have seen it. I say probably.

I am not taking any more classes as I have to finish my book and actually earn some real money instead of just wrestling with all of you!

R said...


Thanks for the response and for taking the time to explain the basics.

Anonymous said...

what book are you writing, what is the title?

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to pretend to know a whole lot about this, but provided the correlates of psychosocial environments of those who stutter (ex. being the youngest of a large, loud family), and the success of epigenetic models for anxiety disorders, OCD etc. I would say it's a little early to suggest there's probably no epigenetic factors in the development of stuttering.

Anonymous said...

Yes I would say epigenetics could play a major part if it is shown that can be born with the genes to develop stuttering but they may or may not develop unless there are environmental triggers during early childhood one of which could be perceived trauma.