Many people who were stutterers in their childhood were able to overcome their handicaps and became successful in life some even becoming great orators. In fact, the current resident of the Whitehouse Joe Biden had the condition in his childhood and was able to overcome it successfully.
Astrocytes a Star-shaped type of cells that are found in the brain may be responsible for stuttering says a new study that is also exploring the possibility of a drug to treat this speech disorder.
The research, conducted by stuttering experts at the University of California, Riverside, and published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, focuses on the effects of the drug risperidone when given to people suffering from stuttering.
Stuttering, a speech fluency disorder that usually occurs in childhood, affects about 3 million people in the US according to the NIH. This disorder is usually associated with high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Risperidone the most commonly prescribed drug for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, which has been around for almost 30 years, works by blocking the receptors in the brain at which dopamine acts, preventing the excessive activity of the neurotransmitter.
The authors found evidence that astrocytes in the striatum (a group of nuclei known for their neuronal action) may play a key role in risperidone’s effectiveness in reducing stuttering.
Risperidone stimulates metabolism
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted with 10 adult subjects who stutter to observe the effects of risperidone on their brain metabolism. At the beginning and end of the study, participants were individually assigned to read a text loudly.
Half of them received risperidone (0.5-2.0 mg/day) for six weeks, while the other five took a placebo pill. The subjects in the risperidone group showed higher glucose uptake – that is, higher metabolism – in certain areas of the brain, according to scans taken after active treatment.
“Glucose uptake is low in stuttering, which is a common feature of many neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Gerald Maguire, professor, and chair of the department of psychiatry and neuroscience at the RCU School of Medicine, who co-lead the study.
“But risperidone appears to compensate for this deficit by increasing metabolism, particularly in the left striatum. More research is needed to better understand this phenomenon. The neuroimaging techniques we used to visualize the changes in the brains of people who stutter may provide valuable information about the pathophysiology of this disorder and guide the development of future interventions,” concludes the researcher.
This is great news for those children suffering from this speech impairment that in many cases can cause them distress because they are more likely to experience bullying by some of their peers. If risperidone is approved for stuttering doctors will have an extra weapon to treat this disorder.