Stuttering is not to do with nervousness or a traumatic childhood as portrayed in the award winning film The King’s Speech but has its root cause in a genetic disorder, new research suggests.
Like in the movie which stars Colin Firth as King George VI, it has been assumed that a stammer is caused by anxiety and psychological problems caused in early life.
But the new research suggests that mutated genes which are inherited are more likely to be the blame, affecting the brain’s ability to control the voice muscles.
The new findings discussed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington could lead to new drug treatment and therapies to reverse the effects of the genetic damage.
Dr Dennis Drayna, a researcher at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, who led the research, made the discovery after studying families in which stuttering appeared to be passed down.
He has implanted the faulty human genes into mice to see how they damage the brain.
“It is a really exciting time in the science of stuttering,” he said.
“It appears these genes are to do with brain function which suggests stuttering is physiological.
“The brain actually looks different in people who stutter compared with those that don’t.”
Dr Drayna found three gene variations called GNPTAB, GNPTG and NAGPA, that were common in people that have a stutter.
He believes that these genes are particularly abundant in parts of the brain that control muscle control and that the gene can cause cell death.
He suggests that this cell death could lead to a “glitch” in the speech mechanisms, “blocking” the ability to pronounce certain sounds and causing the stammer.
However because this physical damage is caused when children are young – up to about four years-old – when they are beginning to learn speak, it is often put down to lack of ability or intelligence.
It also causes frustration in the child – who do not know why they trip over some words – which can be misunderstood as psychological problems
In the King’s Speech, winner of seven Baftas and nominated for 12 Oscars, the story, which is based on the truth, follows, the King going through a number of therapies for his stammer.
It also probes the psychological roots of his stammer, suggesting that the pressures of his childhood, including his strict upbringing, the repression of his natural left-handedness and a painful treatment with metal splints for his knock-knees, could be to blame.
But the new research suggests that this is a misunderstanding. Dr Drayna said: “This is not a disorder of social functions. It really is a disease like any other.”
Dr Drayna tracked down the genes in Pakistan where he found an extended family with a lot of stutterers.
The discovery is not a full explanation — only about 9 per cent of stutterers have the defect. However, he suspects more will emerge.
The genes have been linked to two serious metabolic diseases known as mucolipidosis II and III, in which abnormal amounts of carbohydrates or fatty materials accumulate in cells, leading to skeletal deformities and severe learning disabilities.
Patients with mucolipidosis II are generally unable to speak.
In Britain about one per cent of adults stutter. Of these, 80 per cent are male.
Stuttering is a speech disorder in which a person repeats or prolongs sounds, syllables, or words, disrupting the normal flow of speech. It can severely hinder communication and a person’s quality of life.
Most children who stutter will outgrow the disorder, although many do not.
Therapies for adults who stutter focus on strategies such as reducing anxiety, regulating breathing and rate of speech, and using electronic devices to help improve fluency.
People who stutter are often completely fluent when singing or speaking in unison and when alone and speaking to babies or pets
Famous stutterers include Roman Emperor Claudius, Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe.
The actor Michael Palin used his father’s stutter to create his stammering character in A Fish Called Wanda.
what u say about it…?//