Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Barry E. Guitar

Second Advisor

Michael Cannizzaro


The present study compared lateralization of cortical activation patterns in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of adults who stutter (AWS) and typical speakers (TS) as measured with functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) in habitual and fluency-enhanced speaking conditions.

Participants were AWS (n = 11) and gender- and age-matched TS (n = 11) who completed speaking tasks in three condition blocks: (1) habitual speech using no speaking strategy (2) prolonged speech after receiving short-term training in fluency-shaping strategy-use (3) syllable-timed speech after being trained to speak in rhythm with a metronome at 92 beats per minute.

The three primary dependent variables were mean change in HbO (oxygenation) relative to resting baseline in the right and left PFC hemispheres and a Laterality Index (L-R)/(L+R) calculated from these values. Two primary hypotheses were tested: (1) AWS will present with greater right-hemisphere PFC oxygenation relative to TS in a habitual or everyday speaking task (2) AWS will present with reduced right-hemisphere PFC activation (leftward shift in laterality more similar to TS) during fluency-enhanced speech strategy tasks relative to a habitual speech task.

Real-time stuttered speech measures using fNIRS indicated greater effortfulness of speech production in AWS when speaking fluently and disfluently as measured by greater bilateral change in PFC HbO relative to TS. AWS laterality did not differ from TS during everyday conversation and did not significantly change when using fluency-enhancing strategies, which was counter to the hypotheses. The TS group presented with significantly greater leftward PFC HbO in the metronome condition compared to AWS. Prolonged speech and metronome-timed speech seem to be associated with different activation patterns in the PFC for AWS and for TS.

Results suggest an alternative explanation for compensatory activation in AWS during speech production, such that AWS present with greater overall activation in both PFC hemispheres relative to TS which results in greater right-sided laterality than TS. Future long-term studies on adults receiving prolonged speech treatment and examination of similar measures in young children who stutter may reveal more about the compensatory versus causal nature of stuttering.



Number of Pages

142 p.