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Neurological vs Psychological: How does it fit together?

| 01.12.2009

Workshop by Dr Tom Weidig at the BSA Conference 2009

Dr Tom WeidigIn this workshop Dr Tom Weidig, of the Stuttering Brain blog, suggested a model of how stammering works. Impaired connections in the brain lead to a low-capacity speech system sensitive to break-downs. These break-downs delay speech initiation and lead to speech dysfluencies. Over time, natural psychological and social adaptation additionally creates learned behaviours, the secondary symptoms. These by themselves can also trigger stammering with a stimulus like a situation or word, and/or further reduce the low-capacity by setting the brain in a state of stress or panic. The brain connections, Tom suggested, are a bit like having a two- rather than a three-lane highway: like our speech the narrower highway sometimes flows freely, but it is more sensitive to disruption.

He concludes that both neurological and psychological are relevant. We stammer because of neurology, but the neurology cannot be fixed. Treatment has to focus on the psychological (including behavioural and cognitive) dimension to reduce our neurology's impact on our speech fluency and life. Slides from the talk, and from Tom's other workshop on Evidence-based intervention, are at (15th Sept 2009) and (19th Sept 2009).

From the Winter 2009 edition of Speaking Out, page 9.