For people who stutter, going to speech therapy for just one week may help reorganize their brain and reduce the speech disorder, according to a new study from China.
The researchers studied the brains of 28 people who stuttered, and 13 other healthy people, before and after half the stutterers underwent a week of intensive speech therapy. Not only did the stutterers who received the therapy experience improvements in their speech, the improvements were also reflected in their brain scans, the researchers found.
"These results show that the brain can reorganize itself with therapy," said study author Chunming Lu, of China's Beijing Normal University.
Of the study participants who stuttered, 15 underwent thrice-daily therapy sessions for one week, in which they practiced speaking aloud by repeating words spoken to them, or reading aloud.
In the brain scans done prior to the therapy, researchers found two differences between participants who stuttered and non-stutterers: stutterers had less interactivity in the part of the brain responsible for speech, but had increased interactions in one part of the cerebellum.
After the week of therapy, new brain scans showed that cerebellum interactions in the stutterers decreased, and were equal to those of the non-stutterers.
This reduction in activity shows that "changes in the cerebellum are a result of the brain compensating for stuttering," Lu said, and it suggests that therapy can reverse these changes.
Brain interactivity in the speech area remained unchanged, the researchers found.
Stuttering affects 1 percent of people, the researchers noted.
The study was published today (August 8) in Neurology.
Pass it on: Stutterers can improve after just one week of therapy.