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Title: The neurobiological underpinnings of developmental stuttering
Author: Connally, Emily L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 6147
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The aim of this thesis was to investigate the neural underpinnings of persistent developmental stuttering. We explored neural systems important for speech-motor integration and focused on subcortical control systems: the basal ganglia and cerebellum. A secondary aim of this work was to distinguish effects related to general traits of the disorder from those reflecting specific states of stuttered speech. To address these aims we used a variety of neuroimaging methodologies as well as an extensive neuropsychological and empirical test battery. Our examination of neural pathway microstructure using diffusion-tensor imaging replicated previous findings of widespread disorganisation of white matter in people who stutter. This disruption included all major white matter pathways leading in and out of the cerebellum. In our second, third, and fourth studies we examined functional activity at rest and during different types of speech. The brain networks used by people who stutter and controls largely overlapped. The brain regions that distinguished general traits and specific states of stuttering were somewhat task-specific. Subcortical activation in the basal ganglia and cerebellum was related to the frequency of dysfluent speech in the scanner. In our final study we examined performance on a variety of classical tasks of motor learning. We observed evidence of delayed learning in response to changes in environmental feedback in the stuttering group relative to controls. Within people who stutter, subgroups who differ according to heritability of the disorder may also differ in the balance of dopamine in the basal ganglia. Overall, we concluded that cerebellar alterations contribute to the general trait of stuttering, while basal ganglia disruption may reflect specific effects within stuttering. Our work supports a broader role of the subcortical system in speech production, generally.
Supervisor: Johansen-Berg, Heidi ; Watkins, Kate Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology ; Experimental ; fluency disorder ; DTI ; neuropsychology ; fMRI ; basal ganglia ; rfMRI ; cerebellum ; stuttering ; movement disorder ; MRI