Using Neuroscience To Stop Stuttering

Neuroplasticity exploded on the medical scene circa 2000, asserts that the brain is like plastic, and its performance can be changed (inorganically and organically) as long as we live. In its simplest terms, desired changes can be effected by visualizing/seeing and hearing the desired changes in action. As “The brain knows what to do,” we do need give it only general instructions, rather than attempt to detail what must be done (which we would rarely know anyway), but what does neuroplasticity have to do with reading aloud?

As will be further discussed below, the sound of your voice provides energy, a form of food to the brain. This has been demonstrated in manystudies. Consider, for example, the case of the Benedictine Monksat the Abbaye d’En Calat, who lived by a vow of silence, but whosung Gregorian Chants six or more hours daily. The Second VaticanCouncil (1960-1965) decided that the chanting served no useful purpose and ended it. A collective nervous breakdown ensued, and the monks sat lifeless in the quarters, slumped over as if near death. “They were starved for the energy of sound,” opined Alfred A. Tomatis, M.D. (1920-2001), a French otolaryngologist (a specialist in eye, ear, nose and throat surgery) and inventor of the Electronic Ear, who was asked to attend to the monks. After the chanting was resumed, at Tomatis’ suggestion, the monks returned to good health. The Tomatis’ Method, to shamefully oversimplify it, holds that the ear, and what it hears, has a great impact upon our brains and their performance. Thesound of our own voices and music (especially the classically structuredMozart) contribute materially to the health of our brains.

Tomatis authored 14 books and 2,000 articles dealing primarily with the effects of hearing upon the brain, and the ability of sound to cure various mental ills (such as autism, depression, dyslexia, speech disorders, etc.) Despite sometimes being discredited due to his deviations from the then medical consensus (as I do by insisting that stuttering can be stopped), he received many awards, and his work is now being brought into the main stream of medicine (despite the smaller samples characteristic of his day) by authors such as Norman Doidge (“The Brain That Changes Itself). Some 35 studies have been published on the impact of the Tomatis’ Method. One study showed that “a variety of learning disabilities are effectively treated by the Tomatis Method…about 60% of the autistic children benefit the Tomatis intervention…Other studies show positive effects on stuttering, retardation and on a range of psychological disorders.” (See Review…of Tomatis by Jan Gerritsen, PhD.)

Sound is neuroplastic,” advises Dr. Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, an expert on the neuroplasticity of sound, who applied electrical sensors to the scalp of patients to record the brain waves as they responded to various sounds. She found that “Neurons can be entrained [transported] by a variety of non-electrical stimuli, which can be verified by an EKG.” The human voice and music and various other non-electrical stimuli can entrain (draw along or stimulate) neurons. For example, the waves of neurons have been observed copying the waves of a Mozart piece.

“The ear is a battery to the brain,” said Tomatis. Dr. Doidge adds, “Therapeutic music…can lift the spirit…by increasing dopamine levels…improving people’s moods…[S]ound lifts spirits…Normal sounds help keep “neurons firing together so that the brain is much more efficient.” “Good listening, speaking and being energized” all contribute significantly to general brain-health. Tomatis, and now others, have mitigated or cured some inorganic and organic brain issues via sound.

As Logic 101 would tell us, we NEED to hear the sound of our own voices and, if possible, performing at their best. This contributesto our brain’s health and to our dopamine/happiness levels! Thus,simply “accepting” stuttering is not wise, if there is an alternative –and there is. When we read aloud, we hear our voices at their verybest. It is for this reason (and others, such as replacing stutter-memories with fluency-memories and teaching ourselves to speak with passion), that we should read aloud. Yes; if we would improve our stuttering and our overall speech (and our brain’s health), we NEED to read aloud to the maximum – and with feeling. This underscores the importance of the reading-aloud regimens. I continue to love to read aloud and do so daily.   I urge all to join me in this elevating pursuit.

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