Could speech problems be caused by a neurological condition?

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Offline thedoc

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Kelly asked the Naked Scientists:
   Hi Chris, my husband said he heard your show on Cape Talk last week Friday (the 16th of September) and one of the last callers spoke about neurone disease. My dad who is a very active man has in the last year or two, started struggling with his speech. He has gone to a top neurologist but wasn't given clear answers. My husband said there could be other possibilities like infection etc Not sure how to get hold of that podcast, would love to see if there is anything that can be done for my dads speech. Look forward to hearing back from you.  Many Thanks Kelly
What do you think?
« Last Edit: 24/09/2016 08:22:56 by chris »


Offline evan_au

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There are many possible causes, not all of them neurological.

Depending on the symptoms, there could be:
- A growth on the vocal cords
- A growth affecting the speech centers
- A generalised muscle weakness
- An autoimmune condition like myasthenia gravis
- An injury affecting the speech centers of the brain
- A stroke (a clot or bleeding in the brain)

In many cases, a speech pathologist can assist with the symptoms.


Offline puppypower

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When I was a child, I used to have a speech problem. In my case, my mind was moving faster than I could speak.

If you are thinking, you can process data much faster than if you have to explain the same thing. The analogy is, one can plan a trip to the beach, in  your head, much faster and easier than all the  actions that will be needed to physically organize, pack, drive, unpack, reorganize at the beach.

Say you noticed your watch had stopped and instead of 3 hours to pack, drive to the beach and unpack, you now only have 2 hours. You will need to do is everything at a faster speed, where you start to make mistakes, and start to forget things. 

As a child I did not always talk much, often because I was surrounded by people who talked constantly. It was hard to practice the cadence of talking  when you cannot get get a word in. When it was finally my turn to say something, I would be drifting off in my imagination, making it harder to slow from thinking to talking. The two were not always coordinating. I learned to slow down mu mind; plan, so I could keep within the physical limits of speech.

Another analogy is a coach writing on the play board, moving all the players around as X's and O's. If the players tried to physically simulate the speed of the play board, it would look totally uncoordinated, even if all the players know their exact role in their minds. The body cannot move that fast and will start to lose coordinate.  They need to use a slower speed

There are plenty of people who do a lot of talking, but do not seem to think about what they say. They are better at the slower speed of speech, often just putting together word patterns. Nervousness before public speaking can cause the brain to speed up, so it goes too fast.

Language is useful as away to transfer information, because it is slow enough to reach most people.