Last updated May 1, 2018 at 9:20 am
Researchers are calling out for 3,000 people to take part in a global study of stuttering.
Scientists are looking for people who live with, or have a history of, stuttering, aged seven and above.
Globally, 1 per cent of adults stutter, and nearly 70 per cent of people who stutter report a family history of the disorder.
The disability affects normal verbal communication – particularly the rhythm or flow of speech.
As the website mentions, the study “aims to pinpoint the genes that predispose individuals to stuttering, which could revolutionise future research into the causes, treatment and prevention of the disorder”.
Participating is an easy process, explains co-chief study investigator, Professor Angela Morgan, “Volunteers simply complete a 10-minute online survey and record a short sample of their speech.
“Those who qualify will be invited to provide a saliva sample for DNA analysis, to enable researchers to unravel the genes that predispose people to stuttering.”
What we know about stuttering
It typically emerges in children, after they have already begun to speak, between two-to-four years of age. Approximately 4 per cent of young children experience a phase during which they prolong words, or “get stuck” trying to talk.
Although the exact cause of stuttering is unknown, genetics does play a role in the disorder, with a number of genetic variants identified to date.
“Importantly, gender is one of the strongest predisposing factors for stuttering. Boys are two-to-five times more likely to stutter than girls, and they are also less likely to recover spontaneously,” said Prof Morgan.
Research suggests people who stutter have differences in brain anatomy and functioning, which could possibly account for the variation in speech production.
“The aim of our study is to identify what genes leave an individual more vulnerable to developing a stutter,” said Prof Morgan.
“Participation in this study will ultimately help to shed light on how to best treat stuttering before it affects an individual’s confidence and quality of life,” said speech pathologist Prof Kirrie Ballard.
To date, the target of 3000 participants by December 31, 2019 is already over 10 per cent, with 415 study participants signed up.
In collaboration with the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Speech and Language, The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Griffith University and the University of Melbourne are coordinating the Australian arm of this international study which involves 10 investigators at eight sites in Australia, the UK and The Netherlands.
For more information about the study and how to get involved, visit: geneticsofstutteringstudy.org.au