My research indicates that Neurofeedback is highly effective in treating stuttering. Attention is sharpened and richer communication pathways are built within the brain. Clients enjoy improved self-confidence, students develop a rich social life, and even secure jobs in customer service functions.
Stuttering occurs as a result of irregular brain circuits affecting several language-processing areas. As well, stutterers tend to have long distance communication pathways between motor planning and language processing areas that are either malfunctioning or interrupted due to genetic predisposition or physical trauma.
My research indicates Neurofeedback is highly effective in treating stuttering. I presented a case study in 2012 at the ISNR conference and again in 2013 at the CIC conference that showed very promising results in two moderate to severe teenage stutterers using Neurofeedback, with one moderate to severe stutterer improving to the point of securing a retail customer service job.
Signs and Symptoms
Roughly three million Americans stutter or about 1% of the adult population. Stuttering occurs at all ages, and is most often first noticed in children between the ages of 2 and 5 as they are developing their language skills. Approximately 5 percent of all children will stutter for some period in their life, lasting from a few weeks to several years. Boys are twice as likely to stutter as girls; and as they get older the number of boys who continue to stutter is three to four times larger than the number of girls.
The physical discomfort can be painful and exhausting. Stutterers suffer from cracked teeth, broken crowns and bitten tongue and cheeks. Some stutterers develop calluses, polyps and thickening of the vocal folds from years of straining to initiate voicing. Muscle spasms are also common. Social development, interpersonal relationships, and academic or occupational pursuits are often impacted.
Stutterers look normal therefore people assume they should be able to function normally in everyway. Many stutterers report being labeled retarded, learning disabled, uncooperative or antisocial. They often report interpersonal relationship problems, loss of jobs or promotions and avoidance of higher educational opportunities.
What's Going On in the Brain
It was originally believed that stutterers struggled with speech production, but research has found attentional components, deficiencies in language processing, and poor neurological communications between regions of the stutterer's brain.
Early research comparing EEG profiles of stutterers and those with ADHD found empirical evidence of an attentional component of stuttering. The frontal lobes of stutterers, like those with ADHD, are awash in slow wave activity in the alpha and theta frequency. Neurofeedback focusing solely on amplitude training to minimize slow wave activity has had only moderate success.
Recent research into speech and language processing discovered multiple regions of the brain responsible for language functions, more than previously identified, all connected by long-distance communication pathways. Stutterers have impaired speech due to irregular brain circuits that affect multiple language processing areas in addition to speech production. As well, stutterers have fewer connections between these language processing areas and motor processing and execution areas in the left hemisphere of the brain.
How Neurofeedback Helps Those who Stutter
As the EEGs of stutterers are similar to those with ADHD it stands to reason that Neurofeedback can be successfully applied to stuttering as Neurofeedback is well-proven to reduce the symptoms of ADHD using amplitude training to overcome the predominance of slow-wave activity.
More importantly, I have found that because fMRI scans show the lack of communication between multiple regions responsible for speech processing, production, and execution, Neurofeedback coherence training can be successfully applied to stuttering with very promising results. Coherence training enhances and helps the brain build these communication pathways, properly linking the regions of the brain.
Neurofeedback has had a dramatic impact on my clients as it significantly reduced stuttering which restored self confidence and helped students regain a rich social life and even secure jobs in customer service functions.
Bingham, B. (2013). Multi-modal treatment of stuttering:
a case study showing neurofeedback coupled with traditional speech therapy. ISNR 20th Annual Conference. International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, Orlando, FL.
Brenda Ratcliff-Baird PhD (2002): ADHD and Stuttering: Similar EEG Profiles Suggest Neurotherapy as an Adjunct to Traditional Speech Therapies, Journal of Neurotherapy: Investigations in Neuromodulation, Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience, 5:4, 5-22
André Achim PhD, Claude M. J. Braun PhD & Isabelle Collin PhD (2008): Event-Related Potentials Distinguish Fluent and Stuttered Speech, Journal of Neurotherapy: Investigations in Neuromodulation, Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience, 11:3, 15-23
Christopher Fisher, PhD (2009): Potential QEEG Markers of Childhood Stuttering And Their Implications for Neurofeedback, Behavioral Medicine Report website
A. U. Turken, N. F. Dronkers: White matter pathways subserving the language comprehension network, Front Syst Neurosci. 2011; 5: 1. Published online 2011 February 10.