Saturday, December 10, 2011


I have breaking news for you. Endo, the phamaceutical company owning Pagoclone, will stop the trials on Pagoclone completely and focus on their core business model.

As I have already announced, the Phase II trials did not go well (or well enough).

A few thoughts:

1) Endo spent millions on this. Now you know why pharmaceutical companies need to earn a lot of money on successful drugs because they spent so much on those that don't make it!

2) People need to ask themselves why they were part of the hype. And why they interpreted the Phase I and IIa so positively.

3) Thanks to all those who have worked hard to run the random control trials, especially Jerry Maguire. I never shared their enthusiasm, but in science you need to take risks and try it out.

4) This trial has given us information about stuttering, just not the one we want. Endo now has a large sample of control data. We now know much more about the placebo phenomena in stuttering. That is very valuable information, if it is published in a paper...

TED Talk on the brain

For a visually beautiful introduction to the brain and how scientists are measuring the structure and gene activity. Check out the TED TALK by Allan Jones. You can even access the data on-line. Download the software and zoom into the brain. These maps are important to study brain disorders, including stuttering. As far as I know, no-one is using these maps in stuttering, or working on building up a database of dead stuttering brains.

Would you donate your brain? I am not sure I would. Slicing up my brain would inevitable lead to my final destruction... even though it won't really matter because I am already dead at that point!

I also wonder whether you need healthy, fully developed, and not yet declining brains, ideally 25 years of age. Foundas did some research on the anatomical structure of stuttering brains. But I am not sure if they were dead or not.

(Thanks to Will for pointing this video out to me!)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Paris: ce lundi ou mardi soir?

Je suis à Paris pour un business trip du lundi au mecredi. Mon hotel est près de George V. Si quelqu'un est intéressé d'aller boire un coup le soir, email me under tom dot weidig at gmail dot com!

Text me under 00352 621 432263.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Sanne Hans: A true role model...

Another video from Sanne Hans (Miss Montreal) with a good song Addicted to Crying. She is a real role model for people who stutter and for the public. And not one of those Joe Bidens or Emily Blunts that I and no-one else has ever heard stuttering publicly but I have to endure their story on how they overcome their stuttering by doing XYZ...

Friday, December 02, 2011

It could be so easy

In a sense this is a perfect scenario for those advocating open stuttering, and a slap in the face for those who do not and preach we should not. This young singer very clearly stutters and struggles at time. But she is so relaxed, funny, and just gets on with speaking. And she is a good singer (check at 3:10)

Notice that the audience is not at all embarrassed. Why? Because she is not embarrassed! Isn't that what people sometimes tell us: What's so bad about stuttering, you are just not so fluent. So what? Is stuttering really purely neurological?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good mix of keynote speakers

Check out the keynote speakers at the Antwerp Conference: here. It's a definite improvement over last conference. Check also the emergent topics in fluency research: here. This session is for young researchers to present their findings. The conference organizers have definitely taken feedback on board (for example mine), and improved the setup. I will most likely be at the conference, and might propose a contribution.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First Stuttering Conference in India!!

My good friend and TSB supporter Sachin asked me to put up a link to the first Stuttering Conference in India: check here. He told me that I have many "religious" fans in India!

The meeting is held from December 28th to January 1st in Bhubaneswar (Orissa) on the East Coast. If you live in India, consider taking part! Such conference are a great opportunity to know more about stuttering, possible treatments, and about how other people who stutter deal with their handicap and life.

Mmmmm now that I think about it. I have never been to India... :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuttering research goes biochemical

Stuttering research is entering a new phase, the biochemical phase. As far as I know, it's the first research that deals with fundamental biochemical aspects of our brain that are linked to stuttering via genetics research.

Kornfeld on what the three mutations found by Dryana's group do to possibly 10% of us:
...two mutations appear to trap the proteins in the cell’s protein manufacturing center, though some get out before being destroyed. “It’s not an all-or-nothing thing,” Kornfeld says. “Of the material that does get out, its activity is normal.”
But the third mutation causes a larger folding problem and the protein is destroyed just minutes after being made.
I will write more on this in the next post. Fits well into my picture of stuttering...

Kornfeld on therapy: (so you can keep your dream of a cure alive! ,-)
Such findings offer a glimpse at possible future therapies for stuttering. For two of the mutations at least, the problem is not that the protein can’t function, but rather that it

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Questionnaire on Stuttering

Lloyd asks for our support:
I am conducting research about employment and people who stutter for my Master of Public Administration degree at Baruch College in New York City. I have created an anonymous on-line survey.

I am writing to ask if you know people who stutter and fluent speakers who might like to fill out this survey. I am looking for as many unique responses (from both groups) as possible. I encourage you to take the survey as well.  The survey queries attitudes about the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other things.  While this may not be germane to a European audience, I would really like as many respondents as I can get.

Gene therapy for the blind

William pointed me to a BBC report on gene therapy for the blind. I am sure it's still decades away, and might not even be possible theoretically. The intervention is probably very local, but the damage to the speech system and possibly adaptation is distributed.

Think of bad genes as mistakes in a construction plan for a house. Once the house is built, correcting the mistakes are not helping. Of course, the brain is a bit different, because genes instruct the cells to build proteins for a life time. However, the main fibre structure are set at early age and never change again.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Therapist-Patient dictionary

Here is the therapist-patient dictionary. It is actually designed to understand British people, but works equally well for understanding therapists when they talk to you, the patient!!!

Seriously, that's what you have to face up to when you try to discuss science with them! In a clinical environment, I can kind of understand the logic but not in a scientific debate!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Brenda Carey changed her website!

A reader made me aware of irresponsible marketing by Dr Brenda Carey. She has now changed her marketing strategy from a misleading "Stop Stuttering with ..." to a reasonable and factual "Stuttering Specialist Dr Brenda Carey": check out the website. She and her team are definitely stuttering specialists. I might not agree with everything they do, but, if you lived next door to their practise, I would not hesitate to suggest that you take your child to them.

Interestingly, she changed the text from "..what options are available to stop stuttering" to "what evidence based treatments are available to reduce your stuttering and improve your communication." I would have added "reduce your fears" or "improve your well-being".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Antwerp Stuttering Conference

Check out the announcement for the Antwerp stuttering conference in March 2012. I attended last time. My two memories are that I was utterly bored by two key speakers (one of them talking about how to set up a questionnaire!), and on getting nearly sick on eating mussels! I hope they will change the format a bit and have more panel discussions. Debates not monologues!

But overall, a cheap conference worthwhile attending, even if it's only for networking.

Will she change her website?

Check out Ora's question relating to my post on the unethical marketing of stuttering therapy. He got a reply from Brenda Carey:
Ora, I do thank you for your helpful comments. I certainly did not intend to mislead, and will be changing the wording of my site and its address promptly (as soon as I have the tech support). Regards, Brenda Carey
As in politics, watch their actions and not their words. Let's wait and monitor the site. But as she writes, she needs to find another web address.

Thanks to the reader who made me aware of the website, and all others who supported my post and put ethical standards above sensitivities of a paid professional!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stop Dr Brenda Carey

[The situation has changed after writing this post, and Brenda Carey has changed her website. Please see here.]

A reader has pointed me to this rather outrageously marketed website Stop Stuttering by Dr Brenda Carey. A highly irresponsible marketing strategy if you ask me: to suggest that you stop (a marketing place holder for cure?) stuttering with her, even for kids. The sentence "Stop Stuttering with Dr Carey" reads in parents and pws's mind as "Dr Carey can make you stop stuttering".She falls below the ethical standards that I would expect of a therapist.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Judy Kuster's International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) Conference is open until October 22nd, 2011. It's the 14th conference that she has organized and there are always some interesting articles: people who stutter and clinicians sharing their experience. Usually, I get an email asking to publicize the event, but not this year maybe my blog has ceased to be important...

Check out Drayna's summary of genetics results. I plan to ask a few questions.

You can leave questions for the panel of experts in Office Hours.

Have a look at the conference. She does a great job to get people to write and debate. And you get a feeling of how the Internet web pages looked fifteen years ago! ;-)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do specialists get better outcome than generalist clinicians?

I had an idea for some useful piece of research, which would be a change to the research time wasted on useless research.

The treatment of non-specialist SLTs always struck me as scandalous from my own experience and that of others. These are people who have visited university for four years with one course at best on stuttering by an expert, but more typically a few lectures giving by a semi-crackpot prof on what causes stuttering. Then, due to the dictatorship of academic degrees and professional qualification, society gives them the monopoly to treat people who stutter even though they have no clue whatsoever. The clever ones openly admit to their cluelessness on the matter and refuse to treat. Thank you for your professionalism and putting ethics before money! Even though you are probably the non-specialist who would best treat people who stutter! The others are the "I am a qualified SLT and I know what to do." Run, run fast!

Well that is theory! But is correct? What I want to see is the following outcome study. Take 100 people who stutter, assign them to expert SLTs and generalist SLTs, and let's see what's happening. Will the experts get better results???

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Parry's Valsalva theory and treatment

A reader has asked me about my opinion about the Valsalva theory and treatment created by William Parry. Check out Parry's website. As two year ago, I have not made up my mind.

At best, his theory is a partial theory of stuttering and only focuses on the stuttering and blocking events. For Parry, the mis-use of the natural Valsava mechanism greatly blows up the symptoms of our inefficient speech system. Relaxation of the muscles involved in a Valsava mechanism helps reducing the tension and severity of symptoms. It seems to me that his method is similar to muscle relaxation techniques.

I have added a diagram that I found on his page that illustrates his theory. Have a look at it! Let me know of your opinion.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Self-help in Sarajevo

On Tuesday evening, we met up with Alan who is leading the effort of setting up a stuttering organisation in Bosnia. He met us at our hotel and we drove into the surrounding hills to a restaurant with a superb view over Sarajevo. He showed us pictures of his sponsored trip to attend the ISA conference in Argentina.  Without any prompting on my part, he also had a picture of the ISA board meeting, and pointed to Thomas Krall, the German representative at ISA. According to Alan, Thomas was behaving out of place and

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stuttering in Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia

I am currently on a beach holiday with Jelena. On our way down from Belgrade, we met and stayed at Tiana's parents' place. She is a high school student, and lives in Prijepolje in South-West Serbia, close to the border with Montenegro. And her brother is a great fan of strawberry ice cream!

Yesterday, we met up with Gordana (see picture). She is a student in English and French and comes from Budva on the Montenegrian Coast, not far from famous Sveti Stefan. We spoke about her recent therapy experience and she also taught us some new Salsa moves! And today, we are heading to Sarajevo to meet up with Alan and the local self-help group. Should be fun! I'll post group pictures....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two must-read up-to-date summaries

Here are two articles with an up-to-date summary of research findings in brain imaging and genetics.

Soo-Eun Chang wrote the first review Using Brain Imaging to Unravel the Mysteries of Stuttering. She has been spending a lot of years brain imaging at the NIH under Christy Ludlow, and has now moved for more independent research. I met her and Christy at NIH a few years ago. She is modest and diligent. Expect her review to be the same: measured and well-researched.

Drayna and Kang have a review on genetics research Genetic approaches to understanding the causes of stuttering (though expect that they talk a lot about their research) with the following abstract:
Stuttering is a common but poorly understood speech disorder. Evidence accumulated over

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wanne be a reviewer for my book?

If you are interested in reviewing my book, please send me an email. The book is about a new biopsychosocial model that allows modelling all drivers of human processes. You can find more information on this website. I also have a section on stuttering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Auditory-motor integration in different part of brain?

Martin Sommer's team has published new results on their TMS experiments. Martin's student Nicole Neef presented results at the Oxford Dysfluency Conference three years ago on that same topic.The big issue with TMS is that you need to aim correctly to ensure that you "magnetically" knock out the targeted regions. I am somewhat puzzled what more they found. I would have to dig out the paper to see what has now changed to warrent an Elsevier press release. They claim that they have found further evidence that auditory-motor integration is located in a different part of the brain, because TMS has the reverse effect on people who stutter. Such a profound re-organisation is probably the effect of some neurobiological abnormality arising in early childhood.

As a footnote, you might notice that Alexander Wolff von Gudenberg is an author of the article. He is the boss of the Kassel Stuttering Therapy, and I introduced Martin to him with the aim to give Martin plenty of experimental subjects for his experiments. They regularly put clients into a bus and drive them up to Goettingen with their will [as opposed to "against their will"]. So delivering brains for research gives you co-authorship!

Because of stuttering?

I know that TheStutteringBrain has been quite silent. I am currently working on my upcoming book intensively, and just didn't come around writing posts. Recently, I came across this statement:
Some stereotypes are self-reinforcing. If someone tells you over and over that you are oppressed, if you hit an obstacle and fail, like all of us do at some point in our lives, a convenient excuse is that you are discriminated against
I also noticed that we are often using stuttering as an excuse for failure: I didn't get the job, girl, recognition, the promotion, the attention, the qualification BECAUSE of stuttering. But everytime I probe us, I discover that stuttering was not the cause of our failure or at least not the only one and definitely not an insurmountable one. No, we either did not have the qualification, the charm and looks, the charisma, the ability for hard and dilligent work to succeed.

Here is a story from my life. I blamed the fact that I didn't have a girlfriend on my stuttering. Then I went to a youth camp for stuttering young people organized by ELSA (European League of Stuttering Associations), and thought that now I will get a girlfriend! When that didn't work, I started thinking that maybe it was not just due to my stuttering! ;-)

So the next time you fail. don't blame it on stuttering.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New trial for Pagaclone participants?

A reader informed me that
I’ve been advised that Endo is going to launch a new Pagoclone study involving people who have already participated in the trial.  Interested participants (again, it’s only for those people who have already participated in a Pagoclone trial) should contact Dr. Angelo Sambunaris ...
If the rumour turns out to be true, several questions will arise: Does Endo want to test whether a subgroup benefits from Pagoclone or whether it's just a fata morgana? Who is Dr Sambunaris? What ever happened with Jerry Maguire as chief investigator? Is that the reason he doesn't mention Pagoclone any more? What ever happened with the trial data? Will it be published or not? 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am President of Greenhearts Toastmasters Club

I spoke about Toastmasters many times before, and what a great learning environment to face up to your speaking fears and develop public speaking skills. Ideal for the transfer and maintenance phase of an intensive therapy.

I am now President of Greenhearts Luxembourg Toastmasters Club. At first, I declined because I felt it was too much work. ;-) But then I realized that I should do what I fear, am uncomfortable with, or do not have experience of. Being the president of a club of 50 people is definitely a useful experience. On the organisational, behind-the-scenes, and running the committee side, I don't see much problems (so far). Also because my fellow committee members are all reasonable people. ;-) But I am not really a natural presenter when it comes to thanking everyone, being nice to everyone, only mentioning the good side, and so on. I need to talk at each meeting, and report on our activities. That's slightly different to preparing a speech and knowing it by heart.

So I challenge you to join Toastmasters or go into a new experience! What doesn't kill you makes you tough!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Great StutterTalk interview with a mother who did Lidcombe

Great interview by Peter from StutterTalk on a mother's experience with Lidcombe. And how she got promised the gold standard, and she was told how all experts agree. Again the same fallacy. Lidcombe works perfectly, so if it doesn't work, the parents are to be blamed or the treatment has not been done correctly.

Listen from 28:00 onwards for a very powerful report of the mother...

Even though it's a good interview. It's still frustrating to see how the mother struggles to understand the phenomena and commits fallacies, but also Peter's replies and statements on the evidence base on Lidcombe is not exactly correct. But mind you even what Nan Ratner said on StutterTalk was not exactly correct. This is just the trouble of the whole field, the debates are filled with not exactly correct statements.

Outcome trial on Phonation Intervals Program

I want to share with you this information on a big outcome trial founded by the NIH. Roger Ingham told me about the trial several years ago when I visited him in Santa Barbara. The program runs from 2006 to 2012. I don't know much about the Phonation Intervals treatment. He explained it to me, but I forgot. I think it's based on the idea that speech initiation is the core issues and phonation is trained, similar to fluency shaping?
The context for this study is an exhaustive empirical examination of a research-based and computer-managed treatment for adult developmental stuttering known as the Modifying Phonation Intervals (MPI) program. Within that context, the studies described in this proposal will test a number of hypotheses concerning the relationships among several critical factors: stuttering behavior, the neurology of stuttering, the cognitive and affective components of stuttering, stuttering treatment approaches, and the maintenance of stuttering treatment gains. Thus, this proposal simultaneously addresses two overwhelming needs: efficacious stuttering treatments for adults, and the integration of

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mindfulness in stuttering?

Boyle wrote an article on the potential use of mindfulness in the treatment of stuttering. The abstract is well written and the article looks worth reading. I myself have tried out mindfulness but not on a long term basis. The idea is simple: you just sit silently and direct all your attention to a single source of attention: be it breathing, eating a grape, your inner self, or focusing on a visual stimulus. Even five minutes give you a sense of peace. But of course no cure at all for stuttering, but rather gives you the ability to take a step back from daily life, reduce your stress levels, and reflect on your condition. I see mindfulness as a non-pharmaceutical treatment to decrease anxiety and stress in order to start working on stuttering or the psychosocial maladaptations.

Some readers always imply that I am against qualitative research or discussions. That is not the case. However, I do take the view that you either write qualitatively about techniques or experiences, OR you write a serious scientific articles. The mixture of both is usually a disaster.

Here is the abstract:
The use of mindfulness training for increasing psychological well-being in a variety of clinical and nonclinical populations has exploded over the last decade. In the area of stuttering, it has been widely recognized that effective long-term management often necessitates treatment of cognitive and affective dimensions of the disorder in addition to behavioral components. Yet, mindfulness based strategies and their possible usefulness in stuttering management have not been described in detail in the literature. This article seeks to engage professionals who treat stuttering in a conversation about the possible usefulness of incorporating mindfulness training into stuttering management. A review of the literature reveals that there is a substantial overlap between what is required for effective stuttering management and the benefits provided by mindfulness practices. Mindfulness practice results in decreased avoidance, increased emotional regulation, and acceptance in addition to improved sensory-perceptual processing and attentional regulation skills. These skills are important for successful long-term stuttering management on both psychosocial and sensory-motor levels.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ready to help researchers?

Researchers are always looking for experimental subjects: a resource and time intensive part of being a researcher. In February, I posted a call for volunteers from Deryk Beal: see here. His call is still active, so please if you can get to Boston and you stutter, let him know! Sending me your calls for volunteers or other causes makes sense as TheStutteringBrain reaches out to many worldwide:
Hi Tom

Thank you for posting our call for research subjects on your blog. As a result of your post at least 3 different people who stutter contacted to participate. It may not sound like much, but that is a large number of people considering that your post is free and originates in Luxembourg! One of those people was able to go on to complete both an experiment at MIT and later one at BU. Unfortunately the other two were not able to participate.

We are still actively seeking participants. We have currently recruited 11 PWS who have completed the study, over a 8 month period, but we need approximately 10 more PWS


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hitten loves us!

I like Hitten's Stuttering Hub. His posts are short, his comments are (mostly) wise and not just empty talk, and he doesn't make the mistake of launching into causal theories of stuttering but focusses on the reaction to (his) stuttering. I recommend his blog to anyone who wants to address the psychosocial aspects of stuttering: the fears, the sense of underachievement, frustration, self-esteem issues, and negative attitude. He also offers free counselling sessions.

If you want to know why Hitten loves us, read his post on attending a 10-day meditation course.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crackpot Award for PARTHA BAGCHI

The StutteringBrain awards a Crackpot Award to PARTHA BAGCHI for his ability to ignore the current scientific understanding of stuttering. Even a quick look at wikipedia gives a better understanding of stuttering. He writes on his website Stammering Cure Centre.
Stammering .. is an acquired behaviour not inherited. 
WRONG. Stuttering runs in families, and about half is due to genes. Moreover, gene mutations have been located, most members in some families are stuttering, and monozygotic twins are more likely to stutter than dizygotic twins.

Here are some of the many causes according to Bagchi.

Some of the causes that lead to the development of stammering are :
1. Childish imitation of other stammerers either in the family or outside;
2. An after effect of certain serious illness such as typhoid, malaria, prolonged fever, convulsion etc;
3. Feeling of insecurity in the early age of school;
4. Strict, rude & rough guardianship;
5. Sudden physical or mental shock;
6. Shy or introvert nature from childhood;
7. Very fast speaking habit;
8. Mal-adjustment between parents;
9. Disturbances and quarrel in the family;
10. If the thought process is very fast;

I am quite busy right now

Some might have wondered why the posts are becoming fewer and less elaborate. The simple reason is that I have a new job (I am employed as an expert to regulate a very big re-insurer, i.e. review their internal mathematical risk models from earthquakes, nuclear incidents, market/credit risk to pandemics plus risk management and governance issues, and I represent Luxembourg in international working groups on the drafting of the new Solvency II regulatory framework for insurance companies), work on my upcoming book on the biopsychosocial model, on a workshop on the framework, and a new website project.

But here are all the topics for posts currently in the pipeline:
  • more details from the Wwwwwikileaks affair (including two new documents, one being a legal threat to TheStutteringBrain)
  • a few new results on brain imaging
  • on the endless parade of useful research results
  • some more interesting websites
  • replies to reader's questions
  • my comments on StutterTalk's interview with Jerry

Friday, May 20, 2011

What is going on in Argentina?

I just received this news from a reader regarding events at the World Congress in Argentina of the International Stuttering Association (ISA). Can anyone confirm this or deny this? If no-one confirms, I will delete the post again. I blacked out the names until I get more confirmation.
Are you at the World Congress in Argentina? [....]

I have been back to my sources but only have somewhat sketchy details. I am not at this event but I understand that the International Stuttering Association is on some type of an implode. An ex-director XXX has been having some ongoing dispute with XXX and other Board members over non adoption of a strategic report that he prepared. He has been threatening to take legal action against XXX. The harassment issue must be a rehash of what you wrote [...]

I understand that the Argentinians gave XXX a 1 hour time slot to stand up in front of who ever wanted to listen and then then voice his unwarranted grievances. This was quiet embarrassing for many people and a lot chose to leave the room. I understand the ISA was very unhappy with the Argentinians for doing this.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tell CNN how Oprah sold cures that didn't exist

CNN gives readers the opportunity to say how the Oprah show has affected them: here. Check out a few posts on how the Oprah show sold us cure that were none.

Friday, May 06, 2011

When is a person a stutterer?

Nathan shares my suspicion that Newton was not a stutterer, and he questions whether we could even have labelled him if we had one video of him!
I watched two videos this week where people were having difficultly speaking and if these existed of Newton, I think there would be a medium strength case that he stutters. With these people it is really not clear. They probably don't, but there are some points where both of these people have difficulty speaking that is typical for me and some secondary behaviors.

 The computer scientist Donald Knuth seems to struggle with speech. And so does 2010 Physics Nobel Prize winner Novoselov.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Shocking or not?

Donald Trump called Seth Meyers a stutterer: "I thought Seth Meyers -- his delivery frankly was not good. He's a stutterer." And Stuttering Foundation of America slammed Trump: "We at the Stuttering Foundation find it discouraging that in 2011, Donald Trump has chosen to use the word 'stutterer' in a derogatory fashion, something to be made fun of, to describe Seth Meyers' speech at the annual White House Correspondents' dinner."

I am not so shocked. He probably used it more in the sense of mental hesitation. What do you think?

Unlearn fear

A reader asks:
Is it possible to reduce your autonomic response to moments of stuttering? I mean the pounding heart, tightness in the stomach, etc. If it is possible, how does one go about doing this? By just entering into more situations that evoke the "fight or flight" response?
The pounding heart, and tightness in the stomach is due to a reaction to the situation you are in. Your brain has learned to associate certain situations with fear and anxiety. So the next time your brain encounters a similar situation, it automatically triggers fear and anxiety TO HELP YOU TO BE PREPARED FOR THE DANGEROUS SITUATION. The reason your brain has learned to associate certain situation with fear is because your belief system has said that the situation is dangerous.

Two things you must do:

1) Re-visit your beliefs (Is stuttering in front of people dangerous?), and change your beliefs. At the end of the day, you need to have a belief like "It is not my fault that I am stuttering and there is no reason to be scared, embarrassed, or uncomfortable."

2) Unfortunately, changing your beliefs is not enough, because your brain has learned the association and you can only undo it by learning a new association. This means that you need to enter the situation over and over again, so that your brain realizes that it's not a dangerous situation. There are several techniques to achieve this effectively: here is a rough summary.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Part of the problem

Here is an analogy that captures an important aspect of stuttering: the swallowing-a-pill analogy.

When you drink water, you swallow the water without a problem. When you have to swallow a pill, you might choke on the pill. Being aware of swallowing makes us choke.

Being aware of stuttering makes the stuttering worse.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guitar calls Lidcombe critics ridiculous

Barry Guitar launched a frontal attack on those who are doubting Lidcombe in this radio interview on NPR. The journalist Jane Lindholm asks Guitar why some doubt the evidence base of Lidcombe due to small sample siz. He says that "This is the most ridiculous critique you can imagine". Check at 7:30 minutes. He refers to 100 studies showing efficacy with gold standards. He says that critics don't want to see 100 studies but 1000s studies. He also says that other treatments have no evidence at all that they work.

He falls into the common traps:

(a) equating perceived success in an outcome trial with success of the method itself. (it could well be that other treatments are as effective, and success is not due to Lidcombe specific issues.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fraud and weak research

Maybe you heard of the scandal where a study "established" a link between vaccination and autism, and parents (mostly mothers) in the UK went nuts and stopped vaccination. This study has now been severely discredited.

Ora made me aware of an interesting article about the quality of scientific research in the psychological and social research area. See Lehner's article.
An interesting article in the New Yorker magazine about a phenomenon in scientific studies. 
Before the effectiveness of a drug can be confirmed, it must be tested and tested again. Different scientists in different labs need to repeat the protocols and publish their results. The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity. Most of the time, scientists know what results they want, and that can influence the results they get. The premise of replicability is that the scientific community can correct for these flaws.
But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.
I suggest you read the first page (screen) and then stop and think hard what might account for this effect, before you read the rest of the article.

Monday, April 18, 2011

More of the Australian gold standard

Here is an article for all those that claim that Lidcombe never claims to work magic.Even if you argue that the journalist got it wrong and they don't claim cures, you must wonder how the journalist came to the idea of "cure". This fits well into the last post where the therapist suspected the child's family to be the cause of the "non-cure", because she too was indoctrinated with the "cure". Here is the article.
Online remedy for stuttering
Nick Galvin
May 2, 2010

Relief may be at hand for millions of people around the world who stutter, thanks to the pioneering work of Australian experts.

The Australian Stuttering Research Centre in Sydney has won a federal grant of nearly $5 million to develop a system that sufferers can access via the internet. The simple program has cured pre-schoolers in 12 weeks.

''Parents ask kids every now and then to say what they just said without the stutter,'' centre director Professor Mark Onslow said. ''It works amazingly well but the problem is that there aren't enough speech pathologists to deal with all the kids who are stuttering.''

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Tom: You have been out-handicapped

As you might know, I am an active member in Toastmasters, and regularly participate in contests. Last Saturday, I participated in the Area contest (after the club contest) but I didn't make it to the first three of eight. All eight were very good speeches. I spoke about The King's Speech. An Indian guy won with a speech on Mr Impossible who tells us not to try, and he had polio as a child leaving him with difficulties in walking. He had a very good theme, and comes across as a very nice guy and relaxed speaker. After the contest, someone came to me and said that he liked my speech, but said that I should move and speak of other topics than stuttering, which I agree with, and he finished off by saying: "Tom, great speech but you have been out-handicapped". ;-)

In any case, everyone liked my speech, so here it is:
You helped me find my voice

In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken as I were able to cross your

Friday, April 01, 2011

Lidcombe never fails, only parents do

Here is a comment from a mother in which she says the therapist blames them for the relapse, because Lidcombe works so it must be the parents:
Hi, my son has been on the Lidcombe therapy for 3 months seeing a SLP almost every week in that time. We saw a big improvement for the first few weeks but after that his stutter pattern has returned to how it was before, some days really bad and then a gradual decrease to hardly any problems and then over the next week it becomes worse again. It seems now the therapist is at a loss at to what to do and seems convinced something is happening at home to make it keep getting worse and then better which is insulting. She has blamed my husband because hes in the army and works away alot, then it was my eldest son because he left for uni, nursery, and now she seems to be pointing the finger at me, saying he has to much of an attachment to me (surely if this was the case I wouldnt be able to leave him at nursery). Im so frustrated with the whole experience and feel were no further towards helping him that we were before we started the course. I hope other people have a better and more productive experince from this course. I feel it is more suited for children with less severe stutters xx

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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

No stuttering mice!

Currently, I am reading articles by science journalists in well-respected newspapers and magazines, telling us about the prospect of stuttering mice. And other highly inaccurate stuff.

I am nearly convinced that there will NOT be a stuttering mouse. The Drayna group claims that single mutations in one of three genes, forming part of a metabolic pathway, causes stuttering in nearly all cases. This finding needs to be replicated for me to believe it.

Consistent with their finding, they (or collaborators) plan to create mutations in mice, and see what is happening. They will most likely find subtle damage in some cell types in some brain regions, but they will not hear stuttering mice. People need to get away from the myth that a gene is coding for a special property. Genes deliver the instruction to create a protein, and in combination these genes can create complex molecules needed by the body. My theory is that the mutation only affects specific brain regions that happen to be responsible a stable communication between language and motor areas. Subtle damage to these regions leads to an unstable, low capacity speech system.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quality of human discipline research

Ora writes
Beyond the familiar problems we've discussed - such as publication bias, the tendency to publish results which show something, anything, rather than nothing - we have the confounding effect of bad data.

Take a look at this NY Times article.  20 percent of the data is just wrong?!

Monday, February 21, 2011

From Freud to fMRI: Untangling the Mystery of Stuttering

There was a symposium on stuttering with Smith, Drayna, and de Nil organized by Nan Rantner.
This symposium will track current developments in the study of stuttering, the fruit of recent collaborations among researchers in the fields of genetics, speech motor control, and language processing. Until the past decade, much of the research into this common yet poorly understood communication disorder tended to be narrowly focused on accounts within a single discipline, from psychoanalysis to learning theory to articulatory control to hemispheric asymmetry. In this symposium, we will provide examples of the cross-disciplinary research that is changing consensus on the probable basis for stuttering. Recent advances in genetics, brain imaging, and speech motor control will be discussed in terms of their ramifications for better understanding this elusive disorder as well as treating it more effectively.
All are excellent scientists. However, they are foremost experimentalists and clinicians that work within their respective paradigm. Their challenge is to work on a cross-disciplinary theoretical framework on stuttering and I fear they will get slowed down due to a lack of 100% conceptual and theoretical rigour. I discussed with all of them. They are all bright, but no-one of them is an excellent theorist.They are very much in their experimental paradigm, and their talks suffer from 100% conceptual clarity. Ann Smith is the one with the clearest conceptual mind. But even she is in my view stuck in a single functional cause picture, as far as I remember from our short discussion at Oxford.

I find the mention of the name "Freud" in the title complete and utter kitsch. Why do we need to mention his name or work? Can we not focus on the here and now?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Different voice, no stuttering?

 An interesting self-report of a reader. I am wondering whether the change in voice in puberty affects stuttering. In a sense, the brain does not identify its own voice, and you might have the choral effect!! ;-) That's the first time, I hear this:
I've had MASSIVE fluctuations in stuttering around the time my voice changed. These were much more than a period of good or bad days. I was reduced to a complete absence of stuttering. I could not make myself stutter during these periods.

When I was going through puberty, I stopped stuttering for 2-3 months. I was reading fluently in class and I introduced myself in front of roughly 300 people. I was as surprised as my classmates and teacher were. I attribute this to my voice changing and I gradually relapsed. Around this same time I was becoming really popular so my confidence might have increased, but that might have been a side-effect of the fluency. As I was relapsing, the biggest change back to stuttering was when I got an ear infection, that caused fluid build up in my ears reducing my

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why apparent short-term success in Lidcombe treatment

Perti asks me a question about Lidcombe:
I am an SLP student who has been wondering about the Lidcombe program for a while [...] I've just been wondering about the Lidcombe success rates. How come the Jones et al (2005, British Medical Journal) had such a huge difference between the control group and the actual subjects. The field of stuttering is a complex one, as our professor said. One could fill a library with books that are all about stuttering and still none of them is absolutely right about it. The problem is that somehow they managed to pull off such a huge difference between the groups. The same incidents seems to occur with other studies as well like Miller et al (2009, American

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Yet again they make fun of us

A reader asked me to post this
Hi Tom,

This is a clip from last night's Celebrity Juice (show from the UK). The presenter made a disgusting reference to the King's Speech at the very beginning imitating a bad stammer for the audience to laugh....

The show starts with "Keith's Speech" in front of a microphone... "For the ffffffffffifth time in the lives of most of us there is a fffffffff celebrity juice, I call on you to stand calm as I sssssssssssssolemnly promise there will be no more rude fffffffffffffffffffffffffffff jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjokes". Then he stands up and is completely naked from the waist down with his penis on show although pixelated which isn't really the impotant part. The fact that he made fun of a bad stammer for the audience to laugh at the stammer was the unacceptable part.

I don't understand why there are people out there who think this is "entertaining" or "funny". If someone made the same fun of blacks or disabled people it would be considered of bad taste right? I looked at Youtube but they don't have the clip there unfortunately.

Making fun of stammerers in such a way is by no means acceptable or appropriate so could you post this on your blog and encourage people to send a complaint to ITV either by phone or email (, I have already sent mine.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The second cure of Martin Schwartz

At age 20, when I was an exchange student at Indiana University, I decided to do something against my stuttering. I went to the university book shop, and found a book by Martin Schwartz: The Airflow technique. (I think) I still remember that I was highly embarrassed to buy the book, I guess buying books on stuttering is a bit like buying condoms! The book cover promised the solution to all my questions: What is stuttering? How do I cure my stuttering? I read a very dramatic expose of Dr Schwartz's quest for knowledge. But the more I read, the less convinced I became about what he offered, especially because he came up with a theory, where I clearly saw that different interpretations of the data is possible, too. And he proclaims a cure.

Now nearly 20 years later, Dr Schwartz has a second cure! ;-) I am just wondering why he bothered to come up with a cure. Is one cure, the airflow technique, no enough?

HIS "National" Center for Stuttering has a recent press release: Breaking News: A Possible Cure For Stuttering. He claimed that Thiamine "cures" stuttering in 30% of people who stutter. I feel pretty miserable, because I have a ready post for a Crackpot Award, but I never posted it because he is not quite a crackpot. He is just a very bad scientist with excellent marketing and sales skills. If I include those, 50% of researchers would be crackpots!

So I am going to post the text here, and I leave it to my readers to rip apart the methodology. To all students,

Saturday, February 12, 2011

NSA Research Symposium

Here is the program of the research symposium of the National Stuttering Association on July 5th and 6th 2011.

I am a bit taken back by Jerry Maguire's talk title: Advancements in the pharmacologic treatment of stuttering! Advances? Pagoclone was hailed as the advance, and the first serious trial has not been successful as far as I can see. Of course, the outcome data has not published. I seriously hope that this will be done soon. I must say that the title is a smoke screen. Jerry would do better to tune down his rhetoric. The same is true for his book which is more of a propaganda book! We all admire his commitment and focus on finding a pharmaceutical treatment, but science only cares about facts and benefits from a neutral discussion. A sales pitch is misplaced at the NSA symposium.

I like the high numbers of group discussion. I hope that the discussions will be beyond the typical "Thank you very much for all your efforts. I was wondering whether", and be a though honest no-niceties no-consensus-seeking intellectual debate. The success of such discussions depend on the moderators.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Volunteers needed for a Boston-based study!

If you are able to get to Boston, please consider volunteering for a study:
The Speech Communication Group of Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is looking for a volunteers who stutter to particpate in an NIH-funded research on persistent developmental stuttering. 

Inclusion criteria (apply to all):

1) You have persistent developmental stuttering (also known as stammering).
2) Age between 18 and 50.
3) No history of speech or language disorders, apart from stuttering.
4) No history of hearing disorders.
5) No history of neurological or movement disorders.
6) Speaks North American English as the first (native) language. First langauge refers to the language in which your parents spoke to you when you first started speaking as a child.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

!!!!!!!!!!!1000 posts!!!!!!!

This post is the 1001th post on TheStutteringBrain blog! We need to celebrate. When I was starting to write in 2005, I was not sure whether I would keep up with publishing but I did! I also have nearly 100 followers, and 20'000 page views per month.

Below is the graph of the evolution over time. You can see that the increase is relatively linear, but will probably level off in the next years. The numbers also depend on how many posts I write. But overall I am getting close to half a million visits to the blog.

A great majority of my readers are from the US, followed by the UK and Germany, but readers are from all around the world. I receive a few emails every week from readers from asking for advice to sending my interesting information what certain people or association privately do.

I am very likely the most popular and most read blog on stuttering. Number of awards received from stuttering community: ZERO. Number of awards received by Emily Blunt for saying: I stuttered. ONE. Number of people invited for key note speeches for being famous or rich, for talking about their miraculous recovery from mild stuttering, for scientific sloppiness or propagating crackpot ideas: TOO MANY. Number of emails received from readers thanking me and saying that they like my blog: HUNDREDS. Speaks volumes.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Crackpot Award for Dr Miriam Stoppard

TheStutteringBrain awards a Crackpot Award for Dr Miriam Stoppard for the outrageously uninformed article Stop stammering ruining your big speech in the Daily Mail.

Here is the laudatio:
According to Dr Stoppard's website, she "has been at the forefront of the revolution in health information since she began her writing and broadcasting career in the early 1970s." Her article on stuttering shows that she has not even made the effort to consult wikipedia on the causes and treatments of stuttering. Nor has she consulted with any expert on the field. But why should she? She is known by millions, and she is a real medical doctor.

She has acted in a highly irresponsible manner, which in our opinion has violated her own standards of ethics as a medical doctor, and misinformed the general public, parents, and patients on stuttering. As we do not want to waste our time on explaining line by line why she is terribly wrong, we refer to a response by the British Stammering Association.

We speculate that the only reason she wrote this article, despite her very glaring lack of insight or expertise on the matter, is an effort to keep in the limelight to sell her books and services.

Ask yourself: How can I trust Dr Stoppard for any advice on any health issue, if she got her advice so clearly wrong on stuttering. If she is sloppy on stuttering, is she sloppy on other issues as well? She has lost her credibility.

Crackpot Awards are given to people who make claims about stuttering that clearly violate scientific facts and express these views with crackpot-like confidence.

We are very grateful to The King's Speech for giving us the wonderful opportunity to out those unprofessional professionals.

NOTE on BSA's response:
Stammering is acquired - but we do know from recent genetics research that people who stammer are born with the predisposition and that it is highly unlikely that without this predisposition a child would begin to stammer.

I don't agree that "Stammering is acquired". Stammering occurs (or shows itself) at a certain point in development like you only notice that your engine has a flaw when driving at high speed. The neurobiological basis for stuttering was either already there from the start (i.e. genes), or in the course of development due to an incident, but well before the actual onset. It's like saying traffic jam is acquired in a city that has been growing too fast with appropriate planning.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Abnormal auditory system in people who stutter?

Here is the latest research finding on the stuttering brain. The Japanese scientists claim that people who stutter have abnormal auditory regions. I am a bit confused by this piece of research.
I also want to point out that this signal, if true, might not be the cause of stuttering directly. It could be that this abnormalities is responsible for non-recovery, but not for the cause of stuttering.

Neuroimage. 2011 Jan 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Spatiotemporal signatures of an abnormal auditory system in stuttering.

Department of Otolaryngology, Faculty of Medicine, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan; Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Faculty of Medicine, Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.


People who stutter (PWS) can reduce their stuttering rates under masking noise and altered auditory feedback; such a response can be attributed to altered auditory input, which suggests that abnormal speech processing in PWS results from abnormal processing of auditory input. However, the details of this abnormal processing of basic auditory information remain unclear. In order to characterize such abnormalities, we examined the functional and structural changes in the auditory cortices of PWS by using a 306-channel magnetoencephalography system to assess auditory sensory gating (P50m suppression) and tonotopic organization. Additionally, we employed voxel-based morphometry to compare cortical gray matter (GM) volumes on structural MR images. PWS exhibited impaired left auditory sensory gating. The tonotopic organization in the right hemisphere of PWS is expanded compared with that of the controls. Furthermore, PWS showed a significant increase in the GM volume of the right superior temporal gyrus, consistent with the right tonotopic expansion. Accordingly, we suggest that PWS have impaired left auditory sensory gating during basic auditory input processing and that some error signals in the auditory cortex could result in abnormal speech processing. Functional and structural reorganization of the right auditory cortex appears to be a compensatory mechanism for impaired left auditory cortex function in PWS.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The real king's speech.


My dear friend Einar has sent me this link on the king's speech. Georg VI clearly has a stuttering problem, but I must say that he is handling it extremely well. He has long pauses to give him time, and he only starts struggling a few minutes into the speech. Watch from 5:55 onwards, you see the time if you go Full Screen. Despite his hesitations and visible struggle at times, his performance is clear and strong. Not like my performance on StutterTalk or yesterday when I gave a radio interview to be aired on Monday.

I am nearly convinced Firth was also working from this video as the secondaries ressemble those in the movie.
But I must say that the stuttering is more severe in the movie than at this public talk. However, I can very well imagine that his stuttering was more severe at times, and at times he was fluent.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Do we stutter alone in the universe?

Today, I want to talk about life on other planets.

The Kepler telescope has made a huge step in understanding the likelihood of extra-terrestrial lifeforms. The telescope is fine-tuned to look at the light-emission of stars, and detect fluctuations due to the passing of a planet in the foreground. They found 5 passings of Earth-size planets with acceptable temperature while observing 156'000 stars. So roughly at least 1/3 * 10^(-4) of all stars have one habitable planet.

The universe contains about 3*10^32 stars, so roughly 300'000'000'000'000'000'000'000'000'000'000 stars.

So we have about 10^28, i.e. 1'000'000'000'000'000'000'000, habitable stars in the universe.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The King's Speech review

I have finally watched The King's Speech, but not in the cinema. ;-) Here is my review:

The most interesting aspect for me was the relationship between the two men. Showing how even the king is very human and mortal. The movie was also interesting in playing with the class system that reigned in those days. But in a sense the movie also degraded the king. They applauded him for reading a speech that was written by other people. If I were king and people applauded me, I would be thinking: God Tom you are such a looser when people already get excited when you read a prepared speech!

I am not convinced that all the words put into the mouth of historical figures are very accurate, and could easily give a wrong view on history. I am also not convinced that Churchill told him about his speech impediment. I think the script would have benefited from leaving out a portrayal of Miss Simpson and Churchill.

In terms of the handicap arising from stuttering, the movie did an excellent job. Only a person who stutters/ed like David Seidler could have written such a script.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: Stuttering in Luxembourg

Together with friends from our informal support group in Luxembourg, I have just sent a press release about The King's Speech and the bad care for people who stutter in Luxembourg. The release went to all media, ministries, and political parties. Here are the documents. (In German, one of the official languages in Luxembourg, apart from Luxembourgish and French)

The King’s Speech, der Oscar-nominierte Film über den stotternden König Georg VI
Schlechte Versorgung für stotternde Kinder und Erwachsene in Luxemburg
Am 4. Februar kommt The King’s Speech in die luxemburgischen Kinos. Der Film handelt von der Freundschaft zwischen dem stotternden britischen König Georg VI und seinem Therapeuten Logue. Durch intensives Training gelingt es Georg VI, sein Stottern unter Kontrolle zu bringen, und mit beeindruckenden Reden gegen Nazi-Deutschland das britische Volk zusammenzuschweißen. The King’s Speech wurde 12 mal für einen Oscar nominiert.
Ca 5% aller Kleinkinder durchlaufen eine stotternde Phase, wenn sie Sprechen lernen, und ein Prozent aller Erwachsenen stottern. Stottern ist eine neurologische Störung, die auch vererbt werden kann. Durch temporäre Unfähigkeit, Gedanken in Sprechen zu verwandeln, kann eine starke Sekundärsymptomatik entstehen. Viele leiden zudem unter Sprechangst, Vermeidung von Sprechsituationen, Spott und Diskriminierung auf dem Arbeitsmarkt.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Excellent CBS News report on stuttering.

Check out this excellent CBS NEWS report on stuttering. (Thanks to Nathan for this link!)

Beautiful report where I agree with 100% of what is said, even the science bit. Anne Smith and Weber-Fox are interviewed and they did an excellent job. They are good scientists, and clear science communicators. And note they did not drum up the early-intervention myth of eradicating stuttering with conditioning.

Congratulation! We should give CBS News an award!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Stuttering constant across cultures?

 An interesting comment by a reader on the prevalence of stuttering across cultures.
This subject is very interesting, as big part of speech pathologists believe that stuttering rate is the same everywhere, and only a minor part believe that there are substantial differences in the rate of stuttering in different populations. Those who believe the rate is same everywhere, unfortunately, are not interested in cross-cultural studies. After asking people from different cultural background for many years about stuttering, I found that the differences in the incidence are absolutely huge. For example, you will find that a huge number of people from sub-Saharan populations had a stuttering problems (many have it as adults as well). On the other hand, you can hardly find a stuttering individual among the Chinese, or among Native Americans. Unfortunately, most of the "serious" speech pathologists are not interested to examine these cultural differences, instead they try to explain the published data on the existing differences by different methodologies used by different speech pathologists in different populations. But how come that experts, almost educated in Western Universities, always make the same "mistakes": they exaggerate the number of stutterers in sub-Saharan Africa (and African Americans), and grossly underestimate the number of stutterers among American Indians and Chinese populations. Fearing to face facts has never helped anyone in finding the real causes of any phenomena. I very much hope that many professional speech pathologists will read this blog and comment from their own experience on this topic.
In the past, I wrote that stuttering is relatively constant across cultures. I am not so sure any more. For following reasons:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crackpot Award for Dr Martin Stephen

TheStutteringBrain awards Dr Martin Stephen a Crackpot Award for his article in the Independent:
The truth is that a stammer is psychological, not physiological. We're afraid to admit that, because it smacks of mental illness, a worry shown clearly by both partners in the marriage in The King's Speech. It's in the mind, a stammer, and comes from a massive feeling of inadequacy.
Dr Martin Stephen is High Master of St Paul's Boys' School, but he would do good to get outside his intellectual comfort zone: Dr Stephen is an expert on intellectually low demanding subjects like English literature, modern naval history and war poetry. Unfortunately, the world has become more complex and complicated. Science is difficult, but we understand much better the neurobiological and genetic basis of human speech.

He is a terrible example for his students. He should actually do what he probably preaches to his students: THINK BEFORE YOU WRITE, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

He clearly has not done his homework. To claim that stuttering is due to a massive feeling of inadequacy is completely wrong. And shows his lack of literature review on the subject.

Check scientific research or even just wikipedia! Or does he feel too sophisticated or intellectually confident in his abilities to look at it?

I know 100s of people who stutter who feel perfectly adequate in all respects except being able to say exactly what they want to say.You only have to talk or know me!

He gets extra points for
Yet I would argue that losing the ability to speak clearly is no less important to the development of a child than the loss of an arm or a leg, or the capacity to see or to hear.
 Please leave a comment and counter his non-scientific arguments: here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Trudy Stewart on treatment/science

I am disappointed by Trudy Stewart's science part of the Today interview, but I agree with her point that The King's Speech is the first movie to reveal the psychosocial difficulties people who stutter face. But not on the science:

1) There is still no compelling evidence that early intervention is "really really effective.", and that it "prevents stammering going into adulthood". At best, treatment optimizes the psychosocial adaptation to a stuttering brain which might also reduce stuttering. Recovery is very likely a neurobiological process unaffected by treatment.

It's just a wrong hope for parents. They hope for a full recovery, but therapy can at best reduce stuttering and psychosocial maladaptation. And if they fail, they blame it on themselves.

2) I also don't agree with risk factors like family history and part-word repetition helping in treatment. They don't guide us in the method of treatment. They only inform us that some are more likely to keep on stuttering. Every child needs to be treated for what could happen, and not how likely they will stay stuttering? OK. I guess you can make the case that children with no risk factors should be less often monitored.

I would also add that family history could also point to an anti-risk factor. A friend of mine stuttered as a child severely (more than I did apparently), but he recovered fully. And his daughter went through the same process. I strongly suspect that genetics can also point to recovery.

3) The brain imaging has ALSO been on structure which is a more significant finding than just different brain functioning.

Friday, January 21, 2011

King's Speech cast and audience joke and laugh about stuttering

I just watched a Q&A session on the King's Speech. The main actors and director were talking about the movie in front of an audience of actors, I think. [18:00]

The moderator said that the British Stammering Association liked the realistic portrayal of block. Everyone in the audience laughed at the thought of there being an association about stammering. Then the actress playing the wife of the king, also made some really stupid jokes about stuttering. Like the movie would have taken too long, and so on. Only Colin Firth comes out relatively unscathed, except for a few jokes at the end.

Basically, for most in that audience and panel stuttering is just a funny thing a strange king does. Most have no idea what it feels like to stutter. Stuttering is a matter of laughter. They would have never made the same comments about wheelchairs or blacks. Watch it, and you will feel ridiculed. Transported back in the times when your friends made fun of you.

We are totally drunk about the movie. Finally a movie on stuttering. And we think the actors are so concerned about stutterers. They are not. They did the movie for a good story, and not for us. They do not care about us. We are the poodle of the King's Speech.