Subtle Patterns of Altered Responsiveness to Delayed Auditory Feedback during Finger Tapping in People Who Stutter

Brain Sci. 2024 May 7;14(5):472. doi: 10.3390/brainsci14050472.

Abstract

Differences in sensorimotor integration mechanisms have been observed between people who stutter (PWS) and controls who do not. Delayed auditory feedback (DAF) introduces timing discrepancies between perception and action, disrupting sequence production in verbal and non-verbal domains. While DAF consistently enhances speech fluency in PWS, its impact on non-verbal sensorimotor synchronization abilities remains unexplored. A total of 11 PWS and 13 matched controls completed five tasks: (1) unpaced tapping; (2) synchronization-continuation task (SCT) without auditory feedback; (3) SCT with DAF, with instruction either to align the sound in time with the metronome; or (4) to ignore the sound and align their physical tap to the metronome. Additionally, we measured participants' sensitivity to detecting delayed feedback using a (5) delay discrimination task. Results showed that DAF significantly affected performance in controls as a function of delay duration, despite being irrelevant to the task. Conversely, PWS performance remained stable across delays. When auditory feedback was absent, no differences were found between PWS and controls. Moreover, PWS were less able to detect delays in speech and tapping tasks. These findings show subtle differences in non-verbal sensorimotor performance between PWS and controls, specifically when action-perception loops are disrupted by delays, contributing to models of sensorimotor integration in stuttering.

Keywords: delayed auditory feedback; stuttering; synchronization-continuation task; tapping.