New Stuttering Treatment May Get Results In Only A Week

By Amir Khan on August 10, 2012 9:23 AM EDT

People who stutter may have a new treatment to look forward to, according to a small, new study, published in the journal Neurology. Researchers found that a new treatment could help stutters in as little as one week.

"We have tested short-term therapy [from 7 to 10 days] for almost 10 years, and [this] test showed good effect immediately after the therapy for many people who stutter," Chunming Lu, study author and an assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience at Beijing Normal University in China, told HealthDay.  "So we believe that one week of treatment is enough to induce behavioral changes."

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Researchers used a week-long intensive speech therapy program to "reprogram" the brain's circuitry and change the thickness of a region of the brain important to speech and language. During the program, participants repeated two-syllable words that were spoken to them and read words presented to them. 

Approximately 5 percent of young children develop a stutter, a disorder characterized by repeated syllables or words. However, many people outgrow it, with only 1 percent of stutters carrying the condition into adulthood.

Participants who went through the intensive program improved much more on stuttering tests when compared to participants who underwent traditional therapy.

"Our findings also showed that the human brain is highly plastic," Lu said. "[With the appropriate therapy] the brain will be able to reorganize itself and help to reduce stuttering."

Researchers said much more work needs to be done before the program can become widespread. However, they said the program shows a lot of promise.

"This is preliminary research and it should continue to see how therapy does reorganize the brain," Heather Grossman, clinical director of the American Institute for Stuttering in New York City, told HealthDay. "This is an important step in building the [body] of information that shows therapy really does bring change."

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