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Altered effective connectivity and anomalous anatomy in the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit of stuttering speakers


Combining structural equation modeling (SEM) and voxel-based morphometry (VBM), this study investigated the interactions among neural structures in the basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit (BGTC) in the left hemisphere of stuttering and non-stuttering speakers. Stuttering speakers (n=12) and non-stuttering controls (n=12) were scanned while performing a picture-naming task and a passive-viewing (baseline) task. Results showed significant differences between stuttering and non-stuttering speakers in both effective connectivity and anatomical structures in the BGTC in the left brain. Specifically, compared to non-stuttering speakers, stuttering speakers showed weaker negative connectivity from the left posterior middle temporal gyrus (PMTG) to the putamen, but stronger positive connectivity from the putamen to the thalamus, from the thalamus to the PMTG and anterior supplementary motor area (preSMA), and from the anterior superior temporal gyrus (ASTG) to the preSMA. Accompanying such altered connectivity were anatomical differences: compared to non-stuttering controls, stuttering speakers showed more grey matter (GM) volume concentration in the left putamen, less GM volume concentration in the left medial frontal gyrus and ASTG, and less white matter volume concentration underlying the left posterior superior temporal gyrus inside the BGTC. These results shed significant light on the neural mechanisms (in terms of both functional connectivity and neural anatomy) of stuttering.

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