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Emerging topics in fluency research

During these sessions, young researchers are invited to discuss their research findings.

Anthony Buhr

Affiliation: Department of Communicative Disorders, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

Title: Is Speech Fluency Facilitated By Alignment Between Speakers?

Anthony Buhr received his PhD in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Iowa in 2007. He is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dr. Buhr's research interests include planning and control of behavior within conversational interactions.

Abstract: Dynamic interaction between participants in a dialogue is described as a process of alignment of mental representations [Pickering, M. J. & Garrod, S. (2004). Toward a mechanistic theory of dialogue. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 27, 169-226]. To this end, aspects of planning and control of behavior become distributed between speaker and listener, potentially facilitating fluency. In the present study, conversational partners will each be provided a partially complete picture, and through dialogue, will fill in missing details of each to arrive at a composite. The composite thus functions as a shared mental representation, and the process of filling in missing details mimics alignment. Evidence of alignment may include 1) priming of lexical and syntactic information and 2) a decrease in mean length of utterance. Evidence of the effects of alignment on fluency may include decreases in both 1) hesitation frequency and 2) mean pause time between turns.


Sarah Smits-Bandstra

Affiliation: St Cloud State University MN USA

Title: Implicit learning in stuttering and Parkinson's disease: Event-related potentials

Sarah Smits-Bandstra, Ph.D. CCC-SLP, St. Cloud State University, MN. Her post doctoral work compared motor learning and retention of persons who stutter and persons with Parkinson's disease using ERP. Her research includes neural correlates of fluency and motor speech disorders, and manipulating motor learning principles to improve treatment effectiveness

Abstract: The present study compared implicit sequence learning in 12 persons who stutter (PWS), 12 persons with Parkinson's disease (PPD), and 12 age-matched control subjects on a nonsense-syllable serial reaction time (SRT) task.  Subjects were required to learn and identify syllables associated with spatial locations while reaction time, accuracy, fluency, and evoked response potentials (ERPs) were recorded.  Unbeknownst to subjects, locations formed a repeating eight-item sequence.  Questionnaires confirmed learning was predominantly implicit in nature for all groups. Analysis focused on stimulus-locked ERP components following the warning stimulus (S1) and also the imperative stimulus (S2).  ERP results will reveal potential differences in patterns of cortical contribution during implicit learning for PWS, PPD and matched controls.



Mary O' Dwyer  Fiona Ryan

Affiliation: HSE South, Trinity College Dublin

Title: Separating the problem and the person: insights from Narrative Therapy

Mary O' Dwyer works as a speech and language therapist and is an ECSF graduate.  She has experience of working with people who stutter in individual, group and intensive settings.  Her doctoral research study focuses on the relationship between a person's narratives and their stuttering.

Fiona Ryan is a practicing speech and language therapist and ECSF graduate with many years experience of working with people who stutter. A doctoral student she has a particular interest in narrative therapy, its application to stuttering and outcomes from this process.

Abstract: Narrative Therapy (Epson and White, 1990) is a component of the treatment programme Free To Stutter....Free To Speak.  It is an approach which centres the people who seek our help as the experts in their own lives.  Externalization is one of the core processes of narrative therapy.  It facilitates the realisation that the person is not the problem - the problem is the problem.  Through curious questioning, a thick description of the workings of the problem is achieved.  The relationship between the problem and the person also becomes more clearly defined.  This enables the person to take action concerning their problem using their own skills, strengths and resources.  Externalizing conversations pave the way for re-authoring conversations allowing the person who stutters to identify and establish their preferred story.  This presentation describes the process of externalizing conversations.  Activities which allow audience members to experience narrative therapy are included.


Hayley S. Arnold

Title: Psychophysiological correlates of emotional processes in children who stutter

Hayley S. Arnold is an assistant professor in the department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, United States of America. Her research involves the use of psychophysiology to study linguistic, autonomic, and motor factors in relation to developmental stuttering.

Abstract: Though emotions have been studied relative to stuttering since the 1930s and have been proposed as integral components of multi-factorial models of stuttering, little research has been devoted to the psychophysiological correlates of emotions in children who stutter. In comparison with adults, children have had little experience with, and therefore learned reactions to stuttering. Thus, physiological measures of emotions in children may allow for better understanding of how emotional processes relate to stuttering. This presentation summarizes preliminary studies of psychophysiological correlates of emotion with children who stutter and their typically-fluent peers.  Studies employing electroencephalography in preschool-aged children during emotion elicitation procedures and measures of autonomic arousal prior, during, and after speech in school-aged children will be summarized.


Katerina Ntourou

Affiliation: Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center,  Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Title: Behavioral correlates of emotional processes in young children who stutter

Katerina Ntourou received her PhD in Speech-Language Pathology from Vanderbilt University in 2011. Currently, she works as a speech-language pathologist with individuals who stutter at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center and her main research interests include the way emotional, attentional variables and language variables contribute to childhood stuttering.

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to experimentally investigate the behavioral correlates of emotional reactivity (positive affect, negative affect) and emotion regulation (self-speech, off-task) and their relation to speech (dis)fluency in preschool-age children who do (CWS) and do not (CWNS) stutter during emotion-eliciting laboratory procedures.  Participants completed a neutral and a frustrating task, both of which were followed by a narrative task. Results indicated that CWS exhibited more negative emotion and more self-speech than CWNS. For CWS only, emotion regulation behaviors (i.e., off-task, self-speech) were predictive of stuttering-like disfluencies produced during the subsequent narrative tasks. Findings from this study suggest that young CWS are more emotionally reactive than CWNS and that stuttering-like disfluencies are influenced by emotional processes. Overall, findings from this study support the notion that emotions are associated with childhood stuttering and likely contribute to the difficulties that at least some CWS have establishing normally fluent speech.


Sarah Vanhoutte                    

Affiliation: Department of Neurology, Ghent University, Belgium

Title: Neurophysiological analyses of speech perception and production in adults who stutter

Sarah Vanhoutte graduated summa cum laude as Master in Logopaedic and Audiologic Sciences at Ghent University (2009). Her master thesis was on "Qualitative analysis of language production in Parkinson's disease". Her PhD research started in 2009 and focuses on the topic of neurophysiological aspects of speech disfluencies.

Abstract: Stuttering is hypothesized to be a disorder in the timing of activation of different brain regions. Especially the inferior frontal area, which is important for speech preparation, and the motor cortex, responsible for motor execution, are suggested to be involved. Since neurophysiological techniques have exquisite time resolution (1 ms), they are excellent tools to assess this hypothesis. Although stuttering manifests during speech production, both neuroimaging and neurophysiological research also described problems during speech perception. In addition, recent speech-language research has found increasing evidence for a perception-production link. Therefore, in the present study both processes are evaluated. Through EEG, brain activity in both stuttering and fluent speaking participants is recorded during covert reading and overt speaking of single words in different conditions. Data acquisition has been finalized. Currently, ERP and source localization analyses are being performed.


Catherine Theys

Affiliation: ExpORL, Department of Neurosciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Title: Neural correlates of neurogenic stuttering following stroke

Catherine Theys obtained her master's degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 2005. She is a fully registered speech-language pathologist and is currently performing her doctoral studies at Experimental Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Department of Neurosciences, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Her current research focuses on neurogenic stuttering.

Abstract: To investigate the lesion-symptom correlates of neurogenic stuttering, stroke-induced brain lesions of 20 patients with neurogenic stuttering and 17 control patients were compared with voxel based-lesion-symptom mapping. A comparison of the lesions of the patients with neurogenic stuttering and controls showed that multiple left-hemispheric areas were more frequently lesioned in patients with neurogenic stuttering. These areas could be localized to both grey and white matter and most of them are commonly included in neural models of speech production. These findings are consistent with the presence of a cortical-subcortical network associated with fluent speech production and indicate that stroke-induced lesions in different locations in this network may result in neurogenic stuttering. Interestingly, many of the brain regions observed to differentiate between stroke patients with neurogenic stuttering and controls are part of the cortico-basal ganglia-cortical loop which has also been implicated in developmental stuttering.