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Holding your breath = Holding your stutter?

Posted Jul 24 2010 12:38am
I have been writing before about my suspicion that mechanisms responsible for holding your breath longer also modulate the occurring and expression of stuttering symptoms: read Diving and Stuttering , and Swimming Crawl and Stuttering . Yesterday, I made a similar observation again. I felt much greater control over my speech and did not feel the need to get the words out immediately, was able to wait a bit to continue speaking, and able to control the expression of my symptoms more. And yesterday I was holding my breath for 2 minutes without much struggle. I just felt that the struggling behaviors while holding my breath were present but less severe and I was more able to ignore them. So what does this mean for stuttering?

Well, as I wrote many times before, I believe in a neurological deficit that increases frequency and length of internal jams in speech initiation. And I believe that most stuttering events are learned behaviors arising from conditioning processes due to neurological stuttering events, and easily triggered by different stimuli to which they have been associated with. The expression and occurrence of the symptoms and occurrence is directly related to the ability to control those jams in order to avoid a triggering of learned behaviors.

In holding your breath, your brain needs to override the strong reflex to take a breath, and this is only possible if the reflex is weak or the control of the inhibition of the reflex is strong, or both. On such days, the brain is probably also more able to resist the urge to react to a small neurological jamming and wait, or to resist triggers by stimuli conditioned on stuttering events.

But then there is also another effect from swimming: learned behaviors.Often people have panic even if only emerged in water for a few seconds. Here it's not about that reflex, but about a learned responsive: their brain has learned to be scared of the water, and then they react with panic. Of course, panic completely weakens the brain's ability to control the breathing reflex. So this is a different second phenomena. I do not experience this when holding my breath in water. But I did have such a learned response when swimming crawl as I always chocked on talking breath. Many stutterers experience this when speaking: first situation, then panic, and then total loss of control. Such responses can be unlearned, but the ability to resist an urge for breathing is of a different nature.

How can one test this? I would suggest the following. Record the severity of stuttering each day, and at the same time ask someone to hold his or her breath. And see whether the two are correlating.
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