Thursday, April 05, 2007

Neurologically Related?

I never thought about it much before, but I think it's possible that the neurology behind stuttering could be related to the neurology that surrounds the two other conditions that I have (but rarely mention). Two years ago, I was diagnosed with both Essential Tremor ( ) and Medical Writer's Cramp...a form of dystonia ( ).

I began to notice, years ago, that my hands naturally shake when I perform tasks, like bringing a cup of coffee to my mouth or putting a pencil into a sharpener. The closer to the sharpener or to my mouth that my hands would go, the more noticable the tremor. My co-workers began to notice it when in meetings, if I held up a piece of paper to would shake pretty badly. Most thought I was just nervous or had had too much coffee.

Add to this, the fact that, since about school age, I've had a very difficult time writing more than 3 sentences in a row. After the first line, my hand would literally begin to ache and I would be unable to relax it to write smoothly. After about 3 sentences, my writing became erratic and virtually illegible. I got marked off on my grades for being "sloppy" and my early school teachers would give me handwrting assignments to try to improve my handwriting. To no avail.

Once I got into high school, I did everything I could to convince teachers to let me type all of my papers...rather than write them. And by college, I never hand wrote anything...and still don't to this day.

Keeping a journal is something that appeals to me and even have about 5 of them I have collected. None have more than one page filled, however. I simply can't do it. Additionally, when I work out at the gym...certain exercises are funny to watch. For example, when I do the machine for building up my front-thigh muscles, my legs vibrate very strongly when I lift the weights. It's almost embarrassing.

When I was diagnosed for Essential Tremor, the neurologist asked me if I had difficulty with writing. I said that I did and he gave me a simple writing test to determine the extent of my problem. The test consisted partly of beginning in the middle of a piece of paper and slowly drawing a spiral, working my way out. By the third revolution, the spiral disintegrated into a warbling, jumbled mess.

Interstingly, I am almost ambidextrous (born left-handed, early teachers forced me to write with my right hand)...and if I write with my right hand, there is no noticeable tension and I can write smoothly, though it's very time consuming, since it's not as natural. Also, the handwriting appears to be that of a school-aged kid. Very structured and loopy.

So, he prescribed Proponolol for the tremor and offered that I might have surgery for the Writer's Cramp...or injections of some kind...can't remember what. Maybe Botox. I declined both.

I'm just wondering if there might be some connection between the neurological condition that causes my stuttering...and these other conditions.


Jerome said...

For what it's worth: I'm a left-hander too. In the first year at school they tried to make me write right but I refused and since then have been writing with my left-hand.

So I'm a proud lefty! ;)

Ludovich said...

Your testimony agrees with the following information extracted from Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology, 8th: […] perhaps stuttering represents a special category of extrapyramidal dystonic movement disorder, much like writer’s cramp.” (p.509)

Adrian said...

I cannot remember where I read it, but I know some researchers have theorized stuttering is a form of Tourette's Syndrome. Apparently the genetic patterns that have been discovered in stutterers are similar to those in found in Tourette's.

The similarities between stuttering and Tourette's are uncanny. The male to female ratio is similar. Tourette's symptoms are much more common in children then adults. Tourette's symptoms tend to only manifest themselves around others, much like stuttering. I also understand Tourette's is more common in stutterers and vice versa as compared to the general population. I don't think it is a stretch to think stuttering is related to movement disorders such as Tourette's.

Adrian said...

I forgot to mention that both stuttering and Tourette's are associated with excess dopamine levels. The dopamine antagonist medications used by Dr. Gerald Maguire at UC-Irvine to treat stuttering are also to treat Tourette's.