Stuttering Traced to Brain and a Drug in the Offing to Cure It

The News:

Indevus Pharmaceuticals of USA announced this May, some encouraging results from the largest ever clinical trial of a drug for stuttering. However, still larger trials stretching over two to three years are needed. The bright side of it all is that, if the trials succeed, the drug. pagoclone, could become the first ever medical treatment approved for stuttering.


Know the Stuttering:

Also known as the Stammering; Stuttering, as we know is disruption of speech by frequent repetitions, prolongations of sounds, syllables or words or inability to start a word. People who stutter would usually exhibit rapid eye blinkings, tremors of the lips and / or jaw or other responses of struggle in face or torso. Also, presence of many people, talking on the telephone, public speech etc., tend to increase stuttering, whereas being alone, often improve fluency of speech or singing.


Stutter Facts:

Over three million Americans stutter.

Stuttering affects individuals of all ages but frequently in young children of 2 and 6 years. About 80% of adult stutterers are men and about 20% are women.

Stuttering, usually decreases with age, and it is estimated that only less than 1 percent of adults stutter.

Many people who stutter have succeeded in careers requiring public speaking. Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Willis, Jimmy Stewart, and singers Carly Simon and Mel Tillis, are a few luminaries to mention here.

How is stuttering treated now?

There are a variety of treatments available for stuttering which may improve stuttering but till now, there is no cure. However, it may help prevent developmental stuttering from continuing. Parents must consult a speech therapist/ speech pathologist, for a speech evaluation if children stutter for more than six months or when stuttering is accompanied by struggle responses.

Developmental stuttering in children is often treated by counseling their parents. They are encouraged to provide relaxed environment at home, remove fear form children, engage them in unihibiting pleasant conversation in a deliberately slow manner, desisting from forcing them to speak in public, comparing with others.

How did it Happen?

Dr Gerald Maguire, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine, trying to find a cure for stuttering from which he suffers himself. He is organising clinical trials and even testing treatments on himself. Indications are there that the trials are getting closer to the goal.

For long the medical fraternity viewed the stuttering as a nervous or emotional condition to a neurological one that is at least partly genetic. Now, a total transformation is taking place over the last decade. Our medical education also taught us almost nothing on stuttering and there is much more to learn about stutter, researchers said.

Imaging studies on the brain conducted by scientists revealed much hitherto unknown information. They found that the brains of stutterers and non-stutterers behave differently during speech processing. In latter’ case, the speech is largely processed in human brain by the left hemisphere but in formers case the right side also getting unusually active. Dopamine, the neuro transmitter is found in excess in stutterers’ brain. Also, the brains’ auditory cortex is more active in them.

Genetic studies on persons from family trees with a large number of stutterers are also conducted by the researchers to lay their scrutiny on culprit genes and it is still in labs.

So, the researchers took to trials with schizophrenia drugs for stuttering and found some results. but others, the speech and language pathologists, who consider and treat it more as a developmental problem, object to treating stuttering as a medical problem.