Background: Stuttering is a complex speech fluency disorder occurring in childhood. In young children, stuttering has been associated with speech-related auditory and motor areas of the brain. During transition into adolescence, the majority of children who stutter (75–80%) will experience remission of their symptoms. The current study evaluated brain (micro-)structural differences between pre-adolescents who persisted in stuttering, those who recovered, and fluently speaking controls. Methods: This study was embedded in the Generation R Study, a population-based cohort in the Netherlands of children followed from pregnancy onwards. Neuroimaging was performed in 2211 children (mean age: 10 years, range 8–12), of whom 20 persisted in and 77 recovered from stuttering. Brain structure (e.g., gray matter) and microstructure (e.g., diffusion tensor imaging) differences between groups were tested using multiple linear regression. Results: Pre-adolescents who persisted in stuttering had marginally lower left superior frontal gray matter volume compared to those with no history of stuttering (β −1344, 95%CI −2407;-280), and those who recovered (β −1825, 95%CI −2999;-650). Pre-adolescents who recovered, compared to those with no history of stuttering, had higher mean diffusivity in the forceps major (β 0.002, 95%CI 0.001;0.004), bilateral superior longitudinal fasciculi (β 0.001, 95%CI 0.000;0.001), left corticospinal tract (β 0.003, 95%CI 0.002;0.004), and right inferior longitudinal fasciculus (β 0.001, 95%CI 0.000;0.001). Conclusion: Findings suggest that relatively small difference in prefrontal gray matter volume is associated with persistent stuttering, and alterations in white matter tracts are apparent in individuals who recovered. The findings further strengthen the potential relevance of brain (micro-)structure in persistence and recovery from stuttering in pre-adolescents.

Stuttering, Brain development, Childhood-onset fluency disorder, Pre-adolescents,
NeuroImage: Clinical
Department of Radiology

Koenraads, S.P.C., van der Schroeff, M.P, van Ingen, G., Lamballais, S, Tiemeier, H.W, de Jong, R.J.M., … Muetzel, R.L. (2020). Structural brain differences in pre-adolescents who persist in and recover from stuttering. NeuroImage: Clinical, 27. doi:10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102334