Victoria Tumanova: 0000-0002-4216-683X

Anthony P. Buhr: 0000-0001-9370-2332

Edward G. Conture: 0000-0001-8656-2036

Tedra A. Walden: 0000-0003-4917-1022

Stephen W. Porges: 0000-0002-7293-2005

Document Type



Fall 9-2014


stuttering, autonomic, nervous, system




Communication Sciences and Disorders


Purpose—The purpose of this study was to investigate potential differences in autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity to emotional stimuli between preschool-age children who do (CWS) and do not stutter (CWNS).

Methods—Participants were 20 preschool-age CWS (15 male) and 21 preschool-age CWNS (11 male). Participants were exposed to two emotion-inducing video clips (negative and positive) with neutral clips used to establish pre-and post-arousal baselines, and followed by age-appropriate speaking tasks. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) – often used as an index of parasympathetic activity – and skin conductance level (SCL) – often used as an index of sympathetic activity – were measured while participants listened to/watched the audio-video clip presentation and performed a speaking task.

Results—CWS, compared to CWNS, displayed lower amplitude RSA at baseline and higher SCL during a speaking task following the positive, compared to the negative, condition. During speaking, only CWS had a significant positive relation between RSA and SCL.

Conclusion—Present findings suggest that preschool-age CWS, when compared to their normally fluent peers, have a physiological state that is characterized by a greater vulnerability to emotional reactivity (i.e., lower RSA indexing less parasympathetic tone) and a greater mobilization of resources in support of emotional reactivity (i.e., higher SCL indexing more sympathetic activity) during positive conditions. Thus, while reducing stuttering to a pure physiological process is unwarranted, the present findings suggest that parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system activity is involved.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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