As many as 70 million people worldwide struggle with stuttering, but little is known about why people stutter. A new study from Michigan State University may lead to the answer. The study finds that children who stutter have difficulty perceiving a beat in music-like rhythms. This rhythmic deficit could account for why some children stutter and others do not.
The researchers tested two groups of children: one consisted of children with a stutter and the other consisted of children without a stutter. The children played a computer game to test their ability to perceive rhythm. The game involved listening to rhythmic drumbeats and determining whether pairs of beats were the same or different. The researchers analyzed the data, controlling for IQ and language abilities.
The children with a stutter were much worse at identifying when two rhythms were the same or different than the children without a stutter. This suggests that stuttering could be linked to an inability to sense a beat, which could impact their speech patterns.
Study co-author Devin McAuley explains that the findings may inform future treatments. “Stuttering has primarily been interpreted as a speech motor difficulty, but this is the first study to show it’s related to a rhythm perception deficit—in other words, the ability to perceive and keep a beat. That’s important because it identifies potential interventions which might focus on improving beat perception in children who stutter, which then might translate to improved fluency in speech.”
This research is published in the journal Brain & Language.
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