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Autonomic nervous system activity of preschool-age children who stutter
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    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).


    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.


    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.


    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.

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    1 UL1 RR024975-01/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
    5R01DC000523-17/DC/NIDCD NIH HHS/United States
    R01 DC000523/DC/NIDCD NIH HHS/United States
    T32-CH18921/CH/OID CDC HHS/United States
    UL1 RR024975/RR/NCRR NIH HHS/United States
    UL1 TR000445/TR/NCATS NIH HHS/United States
    UL1 TR000445-06/TR/NCATS NIH HHS/United States
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