The Stigma of Stuttering – Can Direct Neurofeedback Improve Speech Fluency?
If you know – or have ever known – someone that struggles or struggled with stuttering, then you most likely are aware of how physically and mentally exhausting it can be for them to communicate as they attempt to control the disruptions in their speech caused by this neurodevelopmental condition. And when we realize that this condition typically begins before the age of 6 and impacts about 5% of preschool children, then I’m sure that most of us can imagine how children might develop additional mental and emotional challenges, such as anxiety, embarrassment, shame and low self-esteem, that most likely will have a significant impact on how they experience life as they grow up.
The good news is that many children outgrow this condition as their brains continue to develop. With the help of speech therapy, many others will be able to learn how to slow down their speech enough to manage the disruptions. However, some (approximately 1%) will continue to stutter for a lifetime. Research focused on these adults is beginning to show changes in the actual structures of the brain when compared to adults without this neurodevelopmental condition. This is great news as it allows for exploration of treatments known to impact those brain structures.
Once such treatment, direct neurostimulation is beginning to gain some traction in the realm of research on stuttering. There may be variations in the neurostimulation technique; however, the treatment is non-invasive and includes the delivery of direct, low-intensity electrical currents to the scalp. If the intensity of the electrical current is higher, it will work to change the neurons (stimulating or reducing neural firing), while lower intensity currents will work with the brainwaves, specifically disrupting dysfunctional brainwaves patterns and supporting the brain’s innate ability to organize and regulate itself. Either way, these treatments that gently work to stimulate the brain directly are bringing hope to those who continue to be challenged by this condition into adulthood.
So, if you, a loved one or someone else you know is part of the 1% of the adult population still dealing with this neurodevelopmental condition, consider reading the recent research by clicking on the link below: