Altered modulation of silent period in tongue motor cortex of persistent developmental stuttering in relation to stuttering severity

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© 2016 Busan et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Motor balance in developmental stuttering (DS) was investigated with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), with the aim to define novel neural markers of persistent DS in adulthood. Eleven DS adult males were evaluated with TMS on tongue primary motor cortex, compared to 15 matched fluent speakers, in a "state" condition (i.e. stutterers vs. fluent speakers, no overt stuttering). Motor and silent period thresholds (SPT), recruitment curves, and silent period durations were acquired by recording tongue motor evoked potentials. Tongue silent period duration was increased in DS, especially in the left hemisphere (P<0.05; Hedge's g or Cohen's dunbiased = 1.054, i.e. large effect size), suggesting a "state" condition of higher intracortical inhibition in left motor cortex networks. Differences in motor thresholds (different excitatory/inhibitory ratios in DS) were evident, as well as significant differences in SPT. In fluent speakers, the left hemisphere may be marginally more excitable than the right one in motor thresholds at lower muscular activation, while active motor thresholds and SPT were higher in the left hemisphere of DS with respect to the right one, resulting also in a positive correlation with stuttering severity. Pre-TMS electromyography data gave overlapping evidence. Findings suggest the existence of a complex intracortical balance in DS tongue primary motor cortex, with a particular interplay between excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms, also in neural substrates related to silent periods. Findings are discussed with respect to functional and structural impairments in stuttering, and are also proposed as novel neural markers of a stuttering "state" in persistent DS, helping to define more focused treatments (e.g. neuro-modulation).




Busan, P., Del Ben, G., Bernardini, S., Natarelli, G., Bencich, M., Monti, F., … Battaglini, P. P. (2016). Altered modulation of silent period in tongue motor cortex of persistent developmental stuttering in relation to stuttering severity. PLoS ONE, 11(10).

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