To assess dynamic brain function in adults who had stuttered since childhood, regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured with H2O and PET during a series of speech and language tasks designed to evoke or attenuate stuttering. Speech samples were acquired simultaneously and quantitatively compared with the PET images. Both hierarchical task contrasts and correlational analyses (rCBF versus weighted measures of dysfluency) were performed. rCBF patterns in stuttering subjects differed markedly during the formulation and expression of language, failing to demonstrate left hemispheric lateralization typically observed in controls; instead, regional responses were either absent, bilateral or lateralized to the right hemisphere. Significant differences were detected between groups when all subjects were fluent-during both language formulation and non-linguistic oral motor tasks-demonstrating that cerebral function may be fundamentally different in persons who stutter, even in the absence of stuttering. Comparison of scans acquired during fluency versus dysfluency-evoking tasks suggested that during the production of stuttered speech, anterior forebrain regions-which play an a role in the regulation of motor function-are disproportionately active in stuttering subjects, while post-rolandic regions-which play a role in perception and decoding of sensory information-are relatively silent. Comparison of scans acquired during these conditions in control subjects, which provide information about the sensorimotor or cognitive features of the language tasks themselves, suggest a mechanism by which fluency-evoking maneuvers might differentially affect activity in these anterior and posterior brain regions and may thus facilitate fluent speech production in individuals who stutter. Both correlational and contrast analyses suggest that right and left hemispheres play distinct and opposing roles in the generation of stuttering symptoms: activation of left hemispheric regions appears to be related to the production of stuttered speech, while activation of right hemispheric regions may represent compensatory processes associated with attenuation of stuttering symptoms.
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