Elevated iron concentration in putamen and cortical speech motor network in developmental stuttering
Cler GJ., Krishnan S., Papp D., Wiltshire CEE., Chesters J., Watkins KE.
Abstract Theoretical accounts of developmental stuttering implicate dysfunctional cortico-striatal-thalamo-cortical motor loops through the putamen. However, the analysis of conventional MRI brain scans in individuals who stutter has failed to yield strong support for this theory in terms of reliable differences in the structure or function of the basal ganglia. Here, we performed quantitative mapping of brain tissue, which can be used to measure iron content alongside markers sensitive to myelin and thereby offers particular sensitivity to the measurement of iron-rich structures such as the basal ganglia. Analysis of these quantitative maps in 41 men and women who stutter and 32 individuals who are typically fluent revealed significant group differences in maps of R2*, indicative of higher iron content in individuals who stutter in the left putamen and in left hemisphere cortical regions important for speech motor control. Higher iron levels in brain tissue in individuals who stutter could reflect elevated dopamine levels or lysosomal dysfunction, both of which are implicated in stuttering. This study represents the first use of these quantitative measures in developmental stuttering and provides new evidence of microstructural differences in the basal ganglia and connected frontal cortical regions.