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February 2018

Electrical brain stimulation can improve speech fluency for adults who stutter


Our research aims to evaluate the efficacy of electrical brain stimulation to reduce the symptoms of stuttering.  A new study recently published in the neurology journal Brain trialled using a painless electrical current to stimulate the brains of adults who stutter. The stimulation was applied while speech fluency was temporarily enhanced during speaking. This combination resulted in increased fluency after the treatment sessions had ended.

In the study, researcher and speech and language therapist, Dr. Jennifer Chesters applied a painless electrical current called transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS, to the part of volunteers’ brains that is used in planning speech. At the same time, the volunteers performed tasks such as speaking in time to a metronome, or speaking along with another person. Volunteers who had multiple sessions of electrical stimulation together with these speaking tasks showed a greater increase in their fluency of speech after six weeks than those who did the speech tasks alone (a reduction in symptoms of around 25%).

While speech therapy alone is beneficial for many people who stutter it may not be as effective or long-lasting for adults as it is for children. Adding electrical stimulation under controlled conditions is thought to increase neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to make lasting changes to itself, so that the gains from fluency therapy may be maintained for longer.

We are now beginning a follow-up study to test whether these gains can last longer than six weeks. The study will also improve understanding of the brain differences involved in stuttering. The group are looking for volunteers who stutter to take part, and can fund travel and accommodation as well as compensating participants for their time. Dr Chesters comments that by strengthening speakers’ ability to hold on to the gains that they have made in speech therapy, this research could “offer a more effective option for those adults who stutter who choose to work on their speech fluency”.

To learn more about the use of tDCS in stuttering therapy, and to find out whether you could be eligible to participate in our research, visit or contact