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Is Stuttering an Emotion?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the effect of emotions on stuttering and stuttering development.  Something that hasn’t been considered, however, is the possibility that stuttering itself is a response to an “emotionally competent stimulus,” which would mean that stuttering qualifies in some sense as an emotion.

An “emotionally competent stimulus” is an object or stimulus that is real or directly recalled from memory. In the case of disgust, for example, an ECS could be an actual pizza covered with maple syrup or a memory of one. In the case of stuttering, an ECS could be an actual situation, such as speaking to a particular person (say, an authority figure) who is associated with a severe stuttering event.

The more interesting possibility, however, is that an internal feeling of loss of speech control (which could be quite subtle) could be an ECS. What’s interesting about this possibility is that it could bridge the gap that is present in all mechanical theories of stuttering between a relatively subtle internal impairment (e.g., the now well-documented white matter anisotrophy in a major speech-language/ motor neuron circuit) and the resulting speech impairment, which can become severe in a matter of hours or days in young children.

The real interest here is that as the ECS develops, so would the intensity of the emotional (i.e., stuttering) response.

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