Mike Bowers seeks cause, cure for stuttering with help from Virginia Tech alumnus
Mike Bowers, an assistant professor in the School of Neuroscience, is now researching the causes that lead to stuttering. Bowers studies language and neurodevelopment disorders. Much of his research has focused on the development of language and, separately, children with autism spectrum disorder.
Multiple causes can lead to stuttering, according to the nonprofit Stuttering Foundation. About 1 percent of the world’s population – about 70 million people, 3 million in the United States – stutter, be it speech broken by repetitions, prolongations, or abnormal pauses at certain sounds or syllables, the organization states at its website. Bowers added that developmental stuttering is one of the most common speech disorders affecting roughly 10 percent of children, but a majority of stutters overcome the speech disorder either on their own or via therapy. How so is still a mystery, according to Bowers.
“Most of the research with stuttering has been focused on treatment with little work done on the neurobiology of what causes stuttering,” Bowers said. “We are looking for the gene mechanisms behind stuttering. We hope this research will lead to future treatments, maybe via gene therapy, to correct the problem before it ever begins.”
And not only for stuttering, but stammering and other speech difficulties, including communication issues linked to autism. Bowers’ research is based on a long-time research project into how rats communicate with each other -- a soft singing, rather than “talking.”