Grant Type: Major Project Grant
Communicating effectively with others is essential for a person’s hauora (physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing). For those who kikikiki (stutter), everyday communication is a struggle. At least one in twenty preschoolers in Aotearoa (New Zealand) develops stuttering. While many recover, spontaneously or with early speech-language therapy, a significant proportion do not. For the 1% of the population with persistent kikikiki, there is currently no cure. Treatments are demanding and effects are often not maintained. Today, more than 50,000 New Zealanders live with the burden of stuttering and the well-documented academic, emotional (e.g., fear of speaking) and social (e.g., isolation) challenges that result. After centuries of research, the cause of stuttering remains unknown. Recent studies provide evidence for a neural basis, reflected by differences in brain function between those who stutter and fluent speakers. However, we do not yet understand the causal mechanisms underlying these differences nor how we can change them with treatment. Our study will, for the first time, investigate how stuttering therapy changes brain function in children who stutter. With these findings, we aim to improve treatment, and have a positive impact on the lives of the 80 million people who kikikiki and their whānau (family) worldwide.