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Tract profiles of the cerebellar peduncles in children who stutter

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Cerebellar-cortical loops comprise critical neural circuitry that supports self-initiated movements and motor adjustments in response to perceived errors, functions that are affected in stuttering. It is unknown whether structural aspects of cerebellar circuitry are affected in stuttering, particularly in children close to symptom onset. Here we examined white matter diffusivity characteristics of the three cerebellar peduncles (CPs) based on diffusion MRI (dMRI) data collected from 41 children who stutter (CWS) and 42 controls in the 3–11 years range. We hypothesized that CWS would exhibit decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the right CPs given the contralateral connectivity of the cerebellar-cortical loops and past reports of structural differences in left cortical areas in stuttering speakers. Automatic Fiber Quantification (AFQ) was used to track and segment cerebellar white matter pathways and to extract diffusivity measures. We found significant group differences for FA in the right inferior CP (ICP) only: controls showed significantly higher FA in the right ventral ICP compared to CWS, controlling for age, sex, and verbal IQ. Furthermore, FA of right ICP was negatively correlated with stuttering frequency in CWS. These results suggest an early developmental difference in the right ICP for CWS compared to age-matched peers, which may indicate an alteration in error processing, a function previously linked to the ICP. Lower FA here may impact error monitoring and sensory input processing to guide motor corrections. Further longitudinal investigations in children may provide additional insights into how CP development links to stuttering persistence and recovery.

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Availability of data and material

The datasets analyzed for this research are available on reasonable written request and through data agreement.

Code availability

Toolboxes used for AFQ analyses are freely available at GitHub ( Customized portion is available on request.



Automated fiber quantification


Cerebellar peduncle


Children who stutter


Diffusion MRI


Expressive vocabulary test


Fractional anisotropy


Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Goldman–Fristoe test of articulation


Mean diffusivity


Inferior cerebellar peduncle


Middle cerebellar peduncle


Peabody picture vocabulary test


Region of interest


Superior cerebellar peduncle


Stuttering-like disfluency


Streamlines tracking tractography


Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence


Wechsler preschool and primary scale of intelligence


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This research was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01DC011277 (PI Chang).

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Conceptualization: S-EC, YL; methodology: S-EC, YL, NW; formal analysis and investigation: S-EC, YL, NW, CJ; writing—original draft preparation: CJ, S-EC, YL; writing—review and editing: S-EC, CJ, YL, NW; funding acquisition: S-EC; supervision: S-EC, YL.

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Correspondence to Soo-Eun Chang.

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The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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All procedures were approved by the Michigan State University Institutional Review Board.

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Written informed consent was obtained from one parent of the participants and assent from the participant prior to participation.

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All authors approved this submission.

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Johnson, C.A., Liu, Y., Waller, N. et al. Tract profiles of the cerebellar peduncles in children who stutter. Brain Struct Funct 227, 1773–1787 (2022).

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