Aphasia | Brain dysfunction, spinal cord and nerve disorders

Broca wernicke aphasia


The American actor Bruce Willis must put an end to his career at the age of 67 because he suffers from aphasia. Aphasia refers to the loss of language. Among the best known: Broca’s and Wernicke’s. The first cause is stroke. What are the typical symptoms? What to do ? Are there treatments?

Some examples
  • Frequent use of one word for another (“watch” for “glasses”) and/or an opposite (“hot” for “cold”).
  • Partial deformation of words (“pite” for “pipe”) or total (“he glie” for “he plays”).
  • Production of sentences in telegraphic style (“me leaving Friday”).

What is aphasia?

This is a disorder where partial or complete loss of the ability to read, speak and gestures may be impaired. It stems from damage to the area of the brain that controls language.

Aphasia is a language disorder that affects people who have acquired language. The type of aphasia varies according to the area affected in the brain in relation to the language areas.

Among the best known: Broca and Wernicke. There is also conduction aphasia which is manifested by a language interspersed with hesitations, stops caused by a difficulty in finding words and, above all, by the production of numerous paraphasias and jargon.

The affected person mixes the sounds in the words and, as he is usually aware, he will try to correct himself. It may be the result of Wernicke’s aphasia having progressed positively.

We speak of “mixed” aphasia when there is both a reduction in expression and significant difficulties in understanding. Finally, “global” aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia. The expression is almost nil and the comprehension disorders are very important.

What is Broca’s aphasia?

Broca’s aphasia (also known as “motor, anterior, or expressive aphasia”) which mainly affects speech with symptoms ranging from not finding certain appropriate words to a total inability to speak. It is characterized by reduced expression. The individual speaks little, slowly, searches for his words. Comprehension is generally well retained.

What is Wernicke’s aphasia?

Wernicke’s aphasia (also called “sensory, reception, or posterior”) which primarily affects the understanding of language, written or oral. The affected person speaks easily or even abundantly, but sometimes he makes paraphasias or he jargons. In writing, she generally encounters the same difficulties as when she speaks.

What is primary progressive aphasia?

Primary progressive aphasia which sets in insidiously, and whose first symptom is usually the lack of words. People generally have a very good awareness of their language disorder, which generates a lot of frustration and is a source of anxiety. When the aphasia is of the non-fluent type, the verbal flow is increasingly reduced, going as far as mutism. In the case of fluent type aphasia, the opposite occurs with logorrhea, jargon, significant disorders of oral and written comprehension and disorders of reading aloud and repetition.

What are the causes of aphasia?

The forms of aphasia vary according to their location in the brain.

The primary cause of aphasia is stroke (cerebrovascular accident). Otherwise it can be a head injury, tumor, aneurysm, infection or neurodegenerative disease. Alzheimer’s The forms of aphasia vary according to their location in the brain.

Read also: Part of the Brain Controls Language and Speech | Do You Know Them?

What are the symptoms of aphasia?

It does not only affect language, but also in many cases comprehension, reading and writing.

People with this disorder often have difficulty expressing themselves spontaneously. Depending on the type of aphasia, some speak only with a juxtaposition of syllables, others speak very slowly and struggle to construct sentences because they can no longer find the right words. There are also people with aphasia who speak fluently but mix up certain sounds and words.

In cases of severe aphasia, people only understand isolated words and interpret the meaning of a message thanks to the context and non-verbal aspects. This is also the case for reading and writing whose letters can be reversed, added, forgotten or replaced. Some words, however spelled correctly, may not correspond to the intended meaning.

What tests are used to diagnose aphasia?

The diagnosis is generally made by the neurologist, but it can also be mentioned by the general practitioner (rather in the case of progressive aphasia) or the emergency doctor (in particular in the case of sudden aphasia). An additional assessment by a neuropsychologist is recommended to confirm the diagnosis and identify the type of aphasia. Depending on the cause, certain imaging tests such as a CT scan and/or an MRI of the brain may be requested.

What are the treatments?

Treatment is based on addressing the cause when it is possible to cure it. Care by a neurologist is therefore necessary in all cases to make the diagnosis and act quickly in the event of a stroke, for example. In the early stages, the language can quickly recover due to the improvement in general health.

This spontaneous recovery must be supported by intensive and targeted speech therapy, because it is during this initial phase that the language functions are the most malleable. The goals are to improve language functions, optimize communication and enable active participation in social life.

What advice?

If you are speaking with someone with aphasia, do not hesitate to speak slowly with simple, short sentences and concrete words, using gestures (showing, miming) and rephrasing if necessary.

Understanding is facilitated when based on the current situation or on elements that illustrate the conversation (for example, photos of the people or the place we are talking about).

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Information: Cleverly Smart is not a substitute for a doctor. Always consult a doctor to treat your health condition.

Sources: PinterPandai, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Mayo Clinic, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), NHS UK

Photo credit: Peter Hagoort / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Photo explanation: the classic Wernicke-Lichtheim-Geschwind model of the neurobiology of language. In this model, Broca’s area is crucial for language production, Wernicke’s area supports language comprehension, and the necessary exchange of information between these areas (such as reading aloud) occurs via the arcuate bundle, a major bundle of fibers connecting language areas in the temporal cortex. (Wernicke’s area) and the frontal cortex (Broca’s area). The language areas border one of the major fissures in the brain, the so-called Sylvian fissure. Collectively, this part of the brain is often referred to as the perisylvian cortex.


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