October 22: International Stuttering Awareness Day

More than three million people in the United States share the common experience of stuttering, a condition that disrupts the production of speech sounds (also known as “disfluencies”), according to the National Stuttering Association (NSA). Oftentimes developed during childhood, stuttering now affects more than 70 million people worldwide. Since 1998, October 22 has been regarded as “International Stuttering Awareness Day,” an opportunity for organizations such as NSA and the Stuttering Foundation to advocate for greater awareness around the stigmas and scientific progress that surround the fluency disorder.

In August, we published a news story, “Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain,” which highlights the latest breakthroughs scientists have made with the help of neuroimaging technology. In the article, neuroscientist Soo-Eun Chang says:

Because very little was known about this complex disorder, there were wild theories…[Nowadays] there’s consensus among many researchers that stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a psychiatric or emotional issue. With neuroimaging, we’ve just begun to find subtle differences in brain structure and function in those who stutter.

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Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children

Here’s the full video from the latest #neuroseries forum, in September; it was so rich in data and ideas that I watched it twice before writing a story about the event for our website. One of my favorite parts is researcher Anne Fernald’s’s description and video showing how fast language-processing speed improves from when a child is 18 months old to when he is 30 months old. Not only is it an easy-to-follow example of how to test language ability in preverbal children, but I love the boy’s attitude when he knows he’s got it right.

I have the short clip with my story; in this video it starts at the 15:05 mark.

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Enter the 2017 Design a Brain Experiment Competition


As students head into their first weeks of the school year, another round of the Design a Brain Experiment competition is upon us! We’re challenging high school students in the U.S. to use their knowledge of the brain and the scientific method of inquiry to develop innovative ideas and theories about the human brain. These original experiments should be designed to test creative theories about daily brain activity, brain disorders and diseases, and brain functions. However, students should not complete their experiments; they should view these submissions as research proposals rather than completed research.

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Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children


Credit: Shutterstock

Many children are at a disadvantage even before they walk into an early Head Start or pre-K program. Research indicates that children from families of low socioeconomic status (SES) have fallen more than six months behind their more advantaged cohorts in language processing and proficiency skills by the time they are two years old. And this deficiency continues to grow. It is apparent that this language gap has profound and lifelong outcomes, not only in “making the grade,” but in self-esteem and behavior. Brain research is helping scientists better understand the neural mechanisms underlying language processing in infants and young children, as well as the social interactions necessary for honing those skills. What do we know and what can be done to mitigate the long-term effects of this deficit? Learn more about the latest research, the emerging “home training for parents,” and the policy issues surrounding this disparity at the free Neuroscience and Society event, “Closing the Language Skills Gap Among Children: It’s Never Too Soon to Start.”

September 28, 2016
5:30 PM – 8:00 PM Eastern Time

AAAS Headquarters
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington, District of Columbia

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The Power of Positive Thinking

While exercise has been widely accepted for its cognitive benefits, practices such as yoga and meditation are gaining attention for their specific contributions to brain health. “Meditation can change certain anatomical structures of the brain, and attention function can be improved, just as it can be with exercise,” neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Wendy Suzuki said in a podcast called Ariana Yoga, which focuses on her exercise-based brain research. The technique of meditating allows for the ability to focus attention without distraction, as well as a better capacity to control emotional impulses, she explains.

As a new type of workout, Suzuki has taken the concept of applying positive thoughts to physical exercise for a practice she describes as “intentional exercise.” The combination of a favorite aerobic activity paired with a positive affirmation or mantra “adds another element,” she says. “Exercise is changing all sorts of neurochemicals and growth factors in your brain,” Suzuki explains in the podcast. Her fascination with the cognitive effects of consistent exercise, and consequential shift in lab research from brain plasticity and memory, was sparked through her own positive experience.

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