People who stutter learn to anticipate many of their overt stuttering events. Despite the critical role of anticipation, particularly how responses to anticipation shape stuttering behaviors, the neural bases associated with anticipation are unknown. We used a novel approach to identify anticipated and unanticipated words in 22 adult stutterers, which were produced in a delayed-response task while hemodynamic activity was measured using functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Twenty-two control participants were included such that each individualized set of anticipated/unanticipated words was produced by one stutterer and one control. We conducted an analysis on the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (R-DLPFC) based on converging lines of evidence from the stuttering and cognitive control literatures. We also assessed connectivity between the R-DLPFC and right supramarginal gyrus (R-SMG), two key nodes of the frontoparietal network (FPN), to assess the role of cognitive control, particularly error-likelihood monitoring, in stuttering anticipation. All analyses focused on the five-second anticipation phase preceding the go signal to produce speech. Results indicate that anticipated words are associated with elevated activation in the R-DLPFC, and that compared to non-stutterers, stutterers exhibit greater activity in the R-DLPFC, irrespective of anticipation. Further, anticipated words are associated with reduced connectivity between the R-DLPFC and R-SMG. These findings highlight the potential roles of the R-DLPFC and the greater FPN as a neural substrate of stuttering anticipation. The results also support previous accounts of error-likelihood monitoring and action-stopping in stuttering anticipation. Overall, this work offers numerous directions for future research with clinical implications for targeted neuromodulation.

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Handling Editor: Kate Watkins

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