Fluent speech production is a complex task that spans multiple processes, from conceptual framing and lexical access, through phonological encoding, to articulatory control. For the most part, imaging studies portraying the neural correlates of speech fluency tend to examine clinical populations sustaining speech impairments and focus on either lexical access or articulatory control, but not both. Here, we evaluated the contribution of the cerebellar peduncles to speech fluency by measuring the different components of the process in a sample of 45 neurotypical adults. Participants underwent an unstructured interview to assess their natural speaking rate and articulation rate, and completed timed semantic and phonemic fluency tasks to assess their verbal fluency. Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging with probabilistic tractography was used to segment the bilateral cerebellar peduncles (CPs) and frontal aslant tract (FAT), previously associated with speech production in clinical populations. Our results demonstrate distinct patterns of white matter associations with different fluency components. Specifically, verbal fluency is associated with the right superior CP, whereas speaking rate is associated with the right middle CP and bilateral FAT. No association is found with articulation rate in these pathways, in contrast to previous findings in persons who stutter. Our findings support the contribution of the cerebellum to aspects of speech production that go beyond articulatory control, such as lexical access, pragmatic or syntactic generation. Further, we demonstrate that distinct cerebellar pathways dissociate different components of speech fluency in neurotypical speakers.

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Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Handling Editor: Catherine Stoodley

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