Examination of validity in spoken language evaluations: Adult onset stuttering following mild traumatic brain injury

NeuroRehabilitation. 2015;36(4):415-26. doi: 10.3233/NRE-151230.


Background: Reports of increased incidence of adult onset stuttering in veterans and service members with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to a reexamination of the neurogenic vs. psychogenic etiology of stuttering.

Objective: This article proposes to examine the merit of the dichotomy between neurogenic and psychogenic bases of stuttering, including symptom exaggeration, for the evaluation and treatment of the disorder.

Methods: Two case studies of adult onset stuttering in service members with mTBI from improvised explosive device blasts are presented in detail. Speech fluency was disrupted by abnormal pauses and speech hesitations, brief blocks, rapid repetitions, and occasional prolongations. There was also wide variability in the frequency of stuttering across topics and conversational situations. Treatment focused on reducing the frequency and severity of dysfluencies and included educational, psychological, environmental, and behavioral interventions.

Results: Stuttering characteristics as well as the absence of objective neurological findings ruled out neurogenic basis of stuttering in these two cases and pointed to psychogenic causes. However, the differential diagnosis had only limited value for developing the plan of care.

Conclusions: The successful outcomes of the treatment serve to illustrate the complex interaction of neurological, psychological, emotional, and environmental factors of post-concussive symptoms and to underscore the notion that there are many facets to symptom presentation in post-combat health.

Keywords: Adult onset stuttering; mild traumatic brain injury; psychogenic disorder; rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Stuttering / diagnosis*
  • Stuttering / etiology
  • Stuttering / therapy