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Department of Cognitive Science

Stuttering Research

For the majority of people who develop a stutter as a child, the condition resolves itself in time. For a small minority however, stuttering persists, causing severe and ongoing distress.

Stuttering is a disorder of motor coordination development in the brain, that is, a problem with the neural processing that underlies speech production. Stuttering typically emerges in children aged two to four years, and it is reasonably common: about 1 in 20 children stutter at some point in childhood.

Over the last 60 years or so, a great deal of scientific research has been conducted into stuttering, with most studies carried out on adults. However, studying children who stutter is very important. This is because the brain changes over time to compensate for stuttering, so the original issue may be obscured in adult stutterers.

Child with MEG systemWe are using Macquarie University's MEG (magnetoencephalography) system – a brain technique which measures the magnetic field generated whenever information is processed by the brain – to study stuttering. The MEG captures measurements every 1/1000 second even though the brain's magnetic fields are 100 million times smaller than the earth's and one million times smaller than those produced in an urban environment.

MEG, which utilises a helmet-like device with extremely sensitive sensors, is completely safe and non-invasive so measurements do not affect body tissues and are therefore suited to the study of the brain in young children.

To make the child MEG experience friendlier for children, we have created a 'Space Adventure' with the children boarding a space ship, 'wearing' a helmet and travelling to another planet.

We are currently recruiting children and adults (3 years and up) to participate in our MEG studies of stuttering. If you would like further information please contact us:

Melanie Reid

Paul Sowman