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Tablet trial stops stuttering

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Stuttering is a frustrating affliction but new research raises the prospect that sufferers may soon be able to take a pill to ease their speech impediment.

Tablet trial stops stuttering: Stuttering is a frustrating affliction but new research raises the prospect that sufferers may soon be able to take a pill to ease their speech impediment.’Olanzapine’ is normally prescribed to people with schizophrenia, but an international conference in Perth has heard it can also reduce stuttering by up to 75 per cent.Little is known about why people stutter but Dr Gerald Maguire, from the University of California, says a naturally occurring brain chemical is part of the problem.”Dopamine, which is a natural brain chemical, appears to be elevated in the brains of individuals who stutter,” Dr Maguire said.”Dopamine brings down the level of functioning of the area of the brain called the striatum and the striatum acts as a switch in the brain for timing and initiation of speech.”If you listen to individuals who stutter, such as myself, we tend to have trouble at the beginning of a phrase and the timing of it and dopamine is inhibitory to this area.”If we block the dopamine this area of the brain can hopefully increase and the fluency can then get better.”Previous attempts to block dopamine and reduce stuttering have led to some serious side effects like depression, sexual dysfunction and movement disorders like rigidity. But a treatment normally used on people with schizophrenia, olanzapine, has proved to be effective at controlling the chemical with fewer side effects.”We just completed a study of 24 individuals who stutter,” Dr Maguire said.”Half of them were on the real medicine and half of them were on the fake medicine, a placebo.”I didn’t know what they were on and the subjects themselves did not know, and we showed a statistical improvement of anywhere from 50 to 75 per cent of an improvement in their fluency.”Holistic help:Dr Maguire has presented his findings to an international conference on stuttering currently taking place in Perth.But he has warned against using the drug alone, saying it will be most effective if used in combination with speech therapy.Conference delegates have welcomed his findings but say it is still too early to endorse the drug as an effective treatment. Vice-president of the Australian Speak Easy Association, Peter Dhu, says a holistic approach is necessary.”Work on the person’s self esteem, some control techniques, some breathing, but if there is a pill, or there was a pill that could help all that come together I think that would be very helpful,” Mr Dhu said.”I think it’s still a long way away from when you just take a pill and then you won’t stutter anymore.”(Source: ABC Health News Adapted from a report for AM by Paula Kruger, Feb 2004)

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Posted On: 21 February, 2004
Modified On: 5 December, 2013


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