Springer (part of Springer Nature), Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 9(15)
Neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation provide insights into the neuronal mechanisms underlying speech disfluencies in chronic persistent stuttering. In the present paper, the goal is not to provide an exhaustive review of existing literature, but rather to highlight robust findings. We, therefore, conducted a meta-analysis of diffusion tensor imaging studies which have recently implicated disrupted white matter connectivity in stuttering. A reduction of fractional anisotropy in persistent stuttering has been reported at several different loci. Our meta-analysis revealed consistent deficits in the left dorsal stream and in the interhemispheric connections between the sensorimotor cortices. In addition, recent fMRI meta-analyses link stuttering to reduced left fronto-parieto-temporal activation while greater fluency is associated with boosted co-activations of right fronto-parieto-temporal areas. However, the physiological foundation of these irregularities is not accessible with MRI. Complementary, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) reveals local excitatory and inhibitory regulation of cortical dynamics. Applied to a speech motor area, TMS revealed reduced speech-planning-related neuronal dynamics at the level of the primary motor cortex in stuttering. Together, this review provides a focused view of the neurobiology of stuttering to date and may guide the rational design of future research. This future needs to account for the perpetual dynamic interactions between auditory, somatosensory, and speech motor circuits that shape fluent speech.