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There is still no explanation for the exact problem that causes stuttering. The newest findings are linking stuttering with a condition known as rhythm perception deficiency.

For some strange reason, scientists have never discovered what exactly causes stuttering.

We know that stuttering, also known as stammering, is a speech disorder in which words, sounds and syllables are prolonged or repeated, thus disrupting the normal flow of speech. This speech disorder can be associated with struggling actions, such as rapid eye blinks or tremors of the mouth. It can’t be controlled and may be provoked by negative emotions such as embarrassment, fear, anger and frustration. Stuttering usually occurs in childhood between the ages of three and eight, but it can affect people of all ages. 

The prevalence of this disorder is about one percent of the world population, a number that rises to four percent in preschool and school populations. Stuttering it is more common in males than females. About 80 percent of children who stutter will outgrow this disability as they age. Stuttering impacts a person’s social life by making it difficult to communicate with other people. However, most people can successfully live with this condition, as famous stutterers have demontstrated. Famous stutterers include Demosthenes, Claudius, Winston Churchill, Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin and even Moses, according to the Talmud. 

Winston Churchill had to prepare all his public speeches to perfection and even practiced answers to possible questions and criticisms to avoid stuttering.

Types Of Stuttering

There are two types of stuttering. The first one is developmental stuttering, which occurs in young children while they are still learning language and speech skills. Scientists consider that developmental stuttering is a hereditary condition, and they discovered three isolated genes which are responsible for stuttering. The second one is neurogenic stuttering, which may occur after head injury, strokes, and brain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis which can cause motoric disorders in the nerve system.

Theories That Explain Stuttering

Over the centuries there were many theories about the origin of stuttering. Theories have gone from biologic to psychological to behaviorist and back to a combination of all three. The exact cause of stuttering remains unconfirmed but it is, no doubt, multifactorial. In ancient Greece, the widespread belief was that stuttering is caused by dryness of the tongue, while in the 19th century, abnormalities of the speech apparatus were thought to be the origin of speech disorders. 

In the 20th century, stuttering was thought to be a psychogenic disorder, so treatment was generally based on cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalytical approaches and parent-child interactions. Later studies, however, showed that these psychological patterns were not consistently associated with stuttering.

Despite significant interest and serious attempts to explain stuttering, all theories introduced so far only partially explain the available medical and experimental observations. 

More probing modern investigations are now looking into the brain of stutterers. These pioneering studies offer an entirely new view on this centuries-old enigmatic condition.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Christian Büchel and Martin Sommer (2004). What Causes Stuttering? PLoS Biology, 2(2): e46
  • Nicoline Grinager Ambrose (2004). Theoretical Perspectives on the Cause of Stuttering. Contemporary Issues in Communication Science and Disorders (CICSD) 31:80-91
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2010). Stuttering NIH Pub. No. 07-4232.
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