Delayed Auditory Feedback and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Treatment for the Enhancement of Speech Fluency in Adults Who Stutter: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial

JMIR Res Protoc. 2020 Apr 21;9(4):e16646. doi: 10.2196/16646.


Background: Stuttering is a complex speech disorder that affects speech fluency. Recently, it has been shown that noninvasive brain stimulation may be useful to enhance the results of fluency interventions in adults who stutter. Delayed auditory feedback (DAF) is a method to enhance speech fluency in individuals who stutter. Adjunctive interventions are warranted to enhance the efficacy of this intervention.

Objective: Individuals who stutter have pathological activation patterns in the primary and secondary auditory areas. Consequently, in this study, we hypothesize that stimulation of these areas might be promising as an adjunctive method to fluency training via DAF to enhance speech therapy success in individuals with a stutter. We will systematically test this hypothesis in this study.

Methods: This study is designed as a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled clinical trial. All participants will receive DAF. The intervention group will additionally receive real transcranial direct current stimulation, while the control group will be exposed to sham stimulation. The assignment of the participants to one of these groups will be randomized. Before starting the treatment program, 2 preintervention assessments will be conducted to determine the severity of stuttering. Once these assessments are completed, each subject will participate in 6 intervention sessions. Postintervention assessments will be carried out immediately and 1 week after the last intervention session. Subsequently, to explore the long-term stability of the treatment results, the outcome parameters will be obtained in follow-up assessments 6 weeks after the treatment. The primary outcome measurement-the percentage of stuttered syllables-will be calculated in pre-, post-, and follow-up assessments; the secondary outcomes will be the scores of the following questionnaires: the Stuttering Severity Instrument-Fourth Edition and the Overall Assessment of the Speaker's Experience of Stuttering.

Results: This protocol was funded in 2019 and approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Iran University of Medical Sciences in June 2019. Data collection started in October 2019. As of February 2020, we have enrolled 30 participants. We expect data analysis to be completed in April 2020, and results will be published in summer 2020.

Conclusions: We anticipate that this study will show an adjunctive effect of transcranial direct current stimulation, when combined with DAF, on stuttering. This should include not only a reduction in the percentage of stuttered syllables but also improved physical behavior and quality of life in adults who stutter.

Trial registration: NCT03990168;

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/16646.

Keywords: delayed auditory feedback; speech fluency; stuttering; transcranial direct current stimulation.

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