Stuttering is a disorder in which the smooth flow of speech is interrupted. People who stutter show structural and functional abnormalities in the speech and motor system. It is unclear whether functional differences reflect general traits of the disorder or are specifically related to the dysfluent speech state. We used a hierarchical approach to separate state and trait effects within stuttering. We collected sparse-sampled functional MRI during two overt speech tasks (sentence reading and picture description) in 17 people who stutter and 16 fluent controls. Separate analyses identified indicators of: (1) general traits of people who stutter; (2) frequency of dysfluent speech states in subgroups of people who stutter; and (3) the differences between fluent and dysfluent states in people who stutter. We found that reduced activation of left auditory cortex, inferior frontal cortex bilaterally, and medial cerebellum were general traits that distinguished fluent speech in people who stutter from that of controls. The stuttering subgroup with higher frequency of dysfluent states during scanning (n = 9) had reduced activation in the right subcortical grey matter, left temporo-occipital cortex, the cingulate cortex, and medial parieto-occipital cortex relative to the subgroup who were more fluent (n = 8). Finally, during dysfluent states relative to fluent ones, there was greater activation of inferior frontal and premotor cortex extending into the frontal operculum, bilaterally. The above differences were seen across both tasks. Subcortical state effects differed according to the task. Overall, our data emphasise the independence of trait and state effects in stuttering.
Hum Brain Mapp
basal ganglia, cerebellum, developmental stuttering, movement disorder, speech disorder