Adults who stutter (AWS) have demonstrated atypical coordination of motor and sensory regions during speech production. Yet little is known of the speech-motor network in AWS in the brief time window preceding audible speech onset. The purpose of the current study was to characterize neural oscillations in the speech-motor network during preparation for and execution of overt speech production in AWS using magnetoencephalography (MEG). Twelve AWS and 12 age-matched controls were presented with 220 words, each word embedded in a carrier phrase. Controls were presented with the same word list as their matched AWS participant. Neural oscillatory activity was localized using minimum-variance beamforming during two time periods of interest: speech preparation (prior to speech onset) and speech execution (following speech onset). Compared to controls, AWS showed stronger beta (15-25 Hz) suppression in the speech preparation stage, followed by stronger beta synchronization in the bilateral mouth motor cortex. AWS also recruited the right mouth motor cortex significantly earlier in the speech preparation stage compared to controls. Exaggerated motor preparation is discussed in the context of reduced coordination in the speech-motor network of AWS. It is further proposed that exaggerated beta synchronization may reflect a more strongly inhibited motor system that requires a stronger beta suppression to disengage prior to speech initiation. These novel findings highlight critical differences in the speech-motor network of AWS that occur prior to speech onset and emphasize the need to investigate further the speech-motor assembly in the stuttering population.
Keywords: beta suppression; beta synchronization; developmental stuttering; magnetoencephalography; speech preparation.