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Behavioral and Neural Correlates of Speech Motor Sequence Learning in Stuttering and Neurotypical Speakers: An fMRI Investigation
Matthew Masapollo, Jennifer A. Segawa, Deryk S. Beal, Jason A. Tourville, Alfonso Nieto-Castañón ...
Publisher: Journals Gateway
Neurobiology of Language (2021) 2 (1): 106–137.
Published: 01 February 2021
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AbstractView article PDF
Stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impaired production of coordinated articulatory movements needed for fluent speech. It is currently unknown whether these abnormal production characteristics reflect disruptions to brain mechanisms underlying the acquisition and/or execution of speech motor sequences. To dissociate learning and control processes, we used a motor sequence learning paradigm to examine the behavioral and neural correlates of learning to produce novel phoneme sequences in adults who stutter (AWS) and neurotypical controls. Participants intensively practiced producing pseudowords containing non-native consonant clusters (e.g., “GVAZF”) over two days. The behavioral results indicated that although the two experimental groups showed comparable learning trajectories, AWS performed significantly worse on the task prior to and after speech motor practice. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the authors compared brain activity during articulation of the practiced words and a set of novel pseudowords (matched in phonetic complexity). FMRI analyses revealed no differences between AWS and controls in cortical or subcortical regions; both groups showed comparable increases in activation in left-lateralized brain areas implicated in phonological working memory and speech motor planning during production of the novel sequences compared to the practiced sequences. Moreover, activation in left-lateralized basal ganglia sites was negatively correlated with in-scanner mean disfluency in AWS. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that AWS exhibit no deficit in constructing new speech motor sequences but do show impaired execution of these sequences before and after they have been acquired and consolidated.