Scientist have created stuttering mice to try and help them understand the speech disorder that humans suffer with. The mice were give a genetic mutation which would cause them to stutter, allowing scientists to research the disorder.

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Previous research had identified mutations in a gene called GNPTAB, which was unexpected as the gene was only known to be responsible for actions such as the digestion of waste inside cells in the body. Dr Terra Barnes from Washington University and her team, using an algorithm, found that mice with the mutation produced almost a third less sounds with longer pauses between noises made.

Professor of neuroscience at Washington University, Dr Tim Holy said: “Speech is obviously a unique human capacity, but the patterns of speech are built out of a lot of building blocks that are much simpler. You have to be able to control the timing of your breath and the fine muscles in your tongue and mouth. You have to be able to initiate movement. Those kinds of things may be shared all the way from mice to people.”

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The very same algorithm was applied to records of people talking, some that suffered from a stammer and some who did not. It was able to distinguish people who were able to speak fluently from those who did in fact stutter. People who stutter often relate the same syllable more, and this was also the case with the mice.

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Dr Holy continued to say: “One of the things we find scientifically interesting about stuttering is that it is so precisely limited to speech. It’s a very clean defect in an incredibly complex task.

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