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First Gene Variants Linked to Stuttering Discovered - Comments

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 1 by Cartomancer

g-g-g-g-g-great n-n-n-news!

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 15:48:00 UTC | #454980

0strich's Avatar Comment 2 by 0strich

As a stutterer myself, I am constantly telling people that it's not a speech issue. Even speech pathologists somehow find it in their infinite wisdom to tell me I'm wrong.

This paper supports my experiences perfectly. The same tendencies I have with getting certain words out seem to also affect some of my hand movements. Rather odd and hard to explain, but bravo.

Good work.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:06:00 UTC | #454982

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

Even if it is genetic I know from experience that nervousness can increase it.

The father of my best friend at school was a member of the Plymouth Brethren, and a bully. I think Andy's treatment at the hands of that cruel man caused him to develop a stammer.

The English teacher would make him go first when we gave readings to the class from novels; she thought it would help him get over it; he was simply rendered almost incapable of speaking and close to tears; I'm getting upset as I write this.

So I don't take kindly to jokes about the condition Cartomancer.

Incidentally, when in the company of my mother he would't stutter at all, but when my dad was around he found it difficult to talk, even though my father was a sweet man.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:11:00 UTC | #454983

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 4 by Bonzai

Stafford Gordon

Even though it's genetic I know from experience that nervousness can increase it.

The article says "The researchers estimate that these mutations account for about 9 percent of stuttering cases".

So, based only on the evidence presented here the remaining 91% may not be genetic (Of course it may still turn out to be genetic but due to different genes than those identified here) It is premature to say that stuttering is genetic. I have known people who have overcome it.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:19:00 UTC | #454987

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 5 by Stafford Gordon

Ostrich; I bow to your personal experience, of course.

Bonzai: Early days yet.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:31:00 UTC | #454993

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

I used to stutter at school. At the end of a test, we would have to shout our mark out of ten, in rotation. If I got ten out of ten, I would shout out "nine" because I had difficulty with saying "ten".

Worst was when, in the army cadet corps, I had to march up to the commanding officer, salute, and shout out "Cadet Dawkins, SIR". It was the anticipation, knowing for weeks in advance that I was going to have to do this, that was especially worrying. Unlike changing "ten" to "nine" there was no circumlocution to escape the hard consonants in "Cadet" and "Dawkins".

I am interested to read of a genetic component. My paternal grandfather stuttered quite noticeably, and so did one of his sons, my uncle. It is a considerable handicap, probably more than people who don't suffer from it realise.


Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:37:00 UTC | #454994

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 7 by Cook@Tahiti

Stuttering has some weird characteristics - mainly men stutter and children more than adults. If you still have it by puberty, chances are you'll have it for life. Many stutterers don't stutter when they're alone or singing or shouting or speaking in an accent or speaking very slowly or reading aloud.

The disfluencies can get worse when stressed, tired, with strangers, and addressing large audiences.

Yes, Richard is right - it is more serious than non-stutterers realise as it can affect job interviews, social relationships, the type of work one can apply for, one's confidence, one's ability to tell jokes, etc.

But it's not deemed serious enough to have any serious government program working on cures.

btw, some trivia: King George VI (QEII's father) and James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) used to stutter. It's also rumoured Marilyn Monroe stuttered.

The cause is still unknown, and there may be different causes for different stuttering traits. The explanation I've read is that the two hemispheres light up in stutterers when speaking, whereas in normal people only the left hemisphere lights up. The theory is that the intricate muscles of the larynx used to articulate speech get confused or conflicting signals from both hemispheres. Must be some wiring problem from infancy.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 16:44:00 UTC | #454996

debaser71's Avatar Comment 8 by debaser71

My stutter rarely has anything to do with my larynx. Mostly my lips and mouth refuse to move as I 'tell' them to.

Anyway nervousness increases it but I can be alone, talking aloud to myself (hehe I'm craaaaazy) and get stuck on a word. It's surprising but that's how it is for me. But then if I stop speaking, take a slow deep breath and speak very slowly the word can come out. Not always but almost always.

Also, for me, it's not really a particular sound I get stuck on, it's the transition from one sound to another. Using Richard's example of the word "ten"; for me I'll be all set with the T sound but to let the air out and make the "eh" sound, I'd simply get stuck. So, where the word "ten" is hard to say the word "to" might not be a problem at all. Also, even though "ten" and the "eh" sound is a problem the word "ben" might not cause me any issues.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 17:08:00 UTC | #455005

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 9 by Cook@Tahiti

debaser71... do you find that it's ALWAYS been a certain syllable or does the problem-syllable change from year to year? For example, one year it might be an 'm' sound and then next year it's the 'f' sound or 'k' sound. Is it mainly hard or soft sounds?

Richard, I'm assuming you lost your stutter before or around puberty as you're a great speaker now.

Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) stutters on "B" sounds and to compensate, over-pronounces the 'B' to great comic effect in Blackadder. From the behind-the-scenes, they had to shoot several takes in order to get his finely executed similies just right.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 17:16:00 UTC | #455008

debaser71's Avatar Comment 10 by debaser71

It changes. And again it's not one sound, it's the transition from one sound to another.

For example, if someone is going BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBlackadder they are getting stuck on B to L. They can clearly say B just fine. hehe.

I don't know Mr Bean well enough but it sounds like he blurts out the sound he's getting stuck on. Like a yell. Yes, sometimes that can 'help'.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 17:23:00 UTC | #455013

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 11 by Rawhard Dickins

I have an "L" of a problem! Apart from that, not too bad now. (I think).

If anything, these impediments can drive people to enjoy the art of speech and do great things! It certainly didn't seem to hold back RD.

I bet there's a few more here in Dawkinsland!

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 17:54:00 UTC | #455022

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 12 by InYourFaceNewYorker


I do realize that it must have been frustrating, though I'm guessing you outgrew it! A guy I went to camp with as a kid had a severe stuttering problem. If he had an announcement to make, sometimes it literally took him 30 seconds to get the first word out. Fortunately, it was a progressive camp with an intelligent demographic and people knew better than to make fun of him for it. He actually had the courage to sing in front of the camp, and I have a feeling that the singing actually helped him with his problem.

I don't see why it wouldn't have a genetic component (though obviously I'm not an expert in this area). I never had a stuttering problem, but I do have a central auditory processing problem. It's really not generally an issue anymore except when I'm in rooms with a lot of people yammering and I'm trying to concentrate on what one person is saying (which is why I never go to bars or go clubbing or go to raves, etc.), but when I was a kid it got me into a lot of trouble (teachers who didn't understand accused me of not listening or being defiant or whatever). CAPD is also thought to be genetic. It would make sense; my father has it too, but in a milder form. So as someone who's had her own dysfunction of sorts, I can definitely believe that stuttering can be stressful!


Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:10:00 UTC | #455026

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 13 by Colwyn Abernathy

Oh, neat! Something that involved little ole' me, considering I've had a consistent stutter since childhood, just like James Earl Jones! I also find fascinating the techniques employed to correct the condition, like introducing singing techniques into speech patterns. I never thought it'd be genetic. Fascinating!

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:12:00 UTC | #455027

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 14 by InYourFaceNewYorker

And I think I also heard somewhere that it's a neurological condition, and that stuttering happens because some neurons keep firing the same signal over and over and over...


Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:19:00 UTC | #455028

wonderer*'s Avatar Comment 15 by wonderer*

This is wonderful.

I have some sort of expressive disorder myself, and figured out that I must be a bit neurologically weird when I was 24, in love, and immensely frustrated at my inability to get my thoughts into the linear form that is language. (Certainly there was an emotional component, as well as the neurological, in that case.)

I eventually had myself evalutated for 'learning disabilities', and was diagnosed with "developmental arithmetic disorder" seemingly because my constellation of test scores most closely fit that category. However, when I brought up the subject of my communication issues with the psychologist conducting the testing, he told me he thought it was 'just my style'. However, I'm married to a speech and language pathologist now, and it is clear to her that I have an expressive disorder, though it doesn't fit any neat categories. It seems pretty clearly hereditary though. My father, aunt (on my father's side), sister, and son all exhibit substantial symptoms as well.

It's been 22 years since I had the testing done, and I'm not greatly optimistic that another 22 years will result in a lot better understanding of my or my son's issues. Though this report is heartening. My issues are much more subtle than stuttering though, and I don't expect them to get the same sort of attention. If someone qualified to do relevant research wants a neurological syndrome named after themselves though, I've got some test subjects, including a quite loquacious sister and daughter.

Contemplating such things has given me a much greater appreciation for the wide variations in cognitive strengths and weaknesses people have, and how often people can complement each other's weaknesses in a mutually beneficial way, if such idiosyncracies are recognized and appreciated.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:33:00 UTC | #455030

Colwyn Abernathy's Avatar Comment 16 by Colwyn Abernathy


Well for me, it's only on certain letters and syllables. For instance, I get stuck on "river" so I sound like I'm growling.... rrrrrrrrr... also "l" words like "little". And yet other hard consonant words like "love" "talk" or "speak" I have no problem with. Oh, "w" words as well like "water" or "wherever". Tho acting does help by rehearsing repetitively. Still, I tense whenever I get to those words.


Which is prolly part of the problem. My Mum used to explain it by saying that my mouth worked faster than my brain, which I think is only partly true.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:39:00 UTC | #455032

yanquetino's Avatar Comment 17 by yanquetino

Little by little, we are unraveling the mysteries of the genetic code. Fascinating discovery!

I have heard some odd things about stuttering, and always wondered if they are mere myths or based on verifiable experiments.

For example, I once heard that stutterers have no problem when talking to animals (such as the family dog or cat), but only with other people. I have also heard that, if they speak while "conducting" their words like an orchestra director, as though "singing" to music, the problem likewise disappears.

Urban legends, do you think?

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 18:55:00 UTC | #455035

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 18 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Who knows? The guy I went to camp with would stutter when he would sing, but significantly less. Whether this is because he already knew what he was going to say (since it was a song) or because singing itself actually helps, who knows?

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 19:09:00 UTC | #455044

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 20 by Cook@Tahiti

It must be more difficult for stutterers in today's fast-paced world. Blue-tooth mobiles, voice-activated devices, authoring youtube videos, social networking sites with a/v, skype, and media craving only soundbites means the pressure to speak quickly, clearly and fluently is more than it ever was.

TED limits its speakers to 18 minutes. Other sites, like Big Think, only offer 5 minutes. Stutterers have no chance.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 19:10:00 UTC | #455048

Frankus1122's Avatar Comment 19 by Frankus1122

Both my brother and myself had stutters as children but we grew out of it.
My son stuttered quite a bit as well up to about the age of six. He too has dropped the stutter.

Could it be that the gene was out-expressed by another?

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 19:10:00 UTC | #455046

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 21 by InYourFaceNewYorker


People compensate for neurological conditions, and it may be because the "proper" neural pathways eventually connect. I have Asperger's Syndrome but today I would likely not meet a clinical diagnosis.

I have the central auditory processing disorder, and it's not nearly as much of a problem as it was, say, twenty years ago; today it's just a pain to talk to someone in a room with a lot of noise. I used to HAVE to sit in the front of a classroom or else I wouldn't process what was being said. I still try to sit in the front in a classroom, but if I can't it's no big deal.

But yeah, people often compensate for their neurological differences over the years.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 19:50:00 UTC | #455063

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 22 by SaintStephen

6. Comment #475513 by Richard Dawkins on April 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I used to stutter at school. At the end of a test, we would have to shout our mark out of ten, in rotation. If I got ten out of ten, I would shout out "nine" because I had difficulty with saying "ten".
Methinks it may have been an exceedingly rare event for the future author of The Extended Phenotype, but this charming anecdote could move some churlish wag to pose the follow-up question:

"What did you shout out when you scored a two out of ten, Professor Dawkins? Nine?"


Thu, 01 Apr 2010 20:10:00 UTC | #455068

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 23 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Maybe he said "naught." :) It's funny, I had no idea that "naught" was the standard for "0" in Britain.

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 20:26:00 UTC | #455076

LaurieB's Avatar Comment 24 by LaurieB


I love your avatar!

Thu, 01 Apr 2010 20:32:00 UTC | #455080

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 25 by Alternative Carpark



Thu, 01 Apr 2010 23:35:00 UTC | #455127

rsharvey's Avatar Comment 26 by rsharvey

Comment #475527 by Rtambree on April 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Yes, I love the way Rowan Atkinson delivers his lines. Especially in Blackadder goes Forth.

He pushed not just his 'b's but all plosive sounds (especially those followed by an 'l'). I don't know whether he genuinely stuttered over them all or whether he just realised he was onto a good thing.

"I smell something fishy, and I'm not talking about the contents of Baldrick's apple crumble."

Fri, 02 Apr 2010 10:06:00 UTC | #455205

maximus444's Avatar Comment 27 by maximus444

I had the very same experiences as the good Professor Dawkins at school. At the start of every year all students would call out their name in rotation, my name(1st & 2nd names) happened to be quite difficult for me to get out on the spot. Still suffer from a slight stutter & it's a pain in the ass.

Fri, 02 Apr 2010 15:11:00 UTC | #455280