3 Types of Aphasia That May Result From Stroke

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Aphasia is a problem with speaking, writing, or understanding language. It happens when you injure parts of the brain that contribute to language. The language areas of the brain include the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the parietal lobe.

The frontal lobe controls your cognitive (thinking) abilities, the temporal lobe processes memories, and the parietal lobe is in charge of information about taste, touch, movement, and temperature.

Language function is located on one hemisphere (half) of the brain, which is called the dominant hemisphere. Typically, the dominant hemisphere of the brain is on the opposite side as your dominant hand (the hand you write with).

Aphasia can occur as a result of any injury to the brain, such as a stroke, traumatic brain injury, a brain tumor, or an infection of the brain. Because of the way the blood vessels are arranged in the brain, the most common cause of aphasia is a stroke.

This article will discuss the three kinds of aphasia that can happen when you have a stroke.

What Is Aphasia?

Aphasia can affect language in many ways because there are several regions of the brain that control language. When one of the language regions is injured but the other language regions remain healthy, some language functions can be affected while others stay the same.

For example, people with aphasia may have difficulty producing words. They may have trouble understanding language or may struggle with reading or writing.

Symptoms of Aphasia
 Verywell / JR Bee

There are a number of well-known aphasia syndromes that have their own specific patterns of speech and language. These patterns relate to the areas of the brain a stroke damages. The three most common types of aphasia are:

  • Broca's aphasia
  • Wernicke's aphasia
  • Global aphasia

Fifteen percent of people under age 65 who experience a stroke develop some form of aphasia. Nearly 45% of people over age 85 experience it.

Broca's Aphasia/Motor Aphasia

This form of aphasia is named after the person who discovered the area of the brain responsible for creating speech. Broca's aphasia is at times called “motor aphasia.” The term is used to show that the ability to speak is damaged but other language abilities stay mostly the same.

Damage to Broca’s area occurs when a stroke interrupts blood flow to the dominant frontal lobe of the brain. Typically, Broca's aphasia prevents a person from forming clear words or sentences. But it has little or no effect on the ability to understand others when they speak.

If you have Broca's aphasia, you might feel frustrated because you aren't able to turn your thoughts into words. Some stroke survivors with aphasia can say only a couple of words to express their thoughts. Experts call this type of language telegraphic speech.

Some of the blood vessels that are affected in Broca’s aphasia also deliver blood to the areas of the brain that control the movement of one side of the body. It usually happens on the right side.

For this reason, Broca’s aphasia often goes along with other problems after a stroke. These issues include hemiparesis (weakness) or hemiplegia (paralysis) on the right side of the body, alexia (inability to read), and agraphia (inability to write).

Recap

Broca's aphasia makes it difficult for a person to express themselves, but they usually are able to understand language. Because strokes that cause Broca's aphasia often damage other areas of the brain, people may also have difficulties with movement, reading, and writing.

Wernicke’s Aphasia

Wernicke’s aphasia is named after the person who discovered the areas of the brain that are responsible for our ability to understand language. These areas are located in the temporal lobe. People with Wernicke’s aphasia can’t understand others, or even themselves, when they speak.

The speech of Wernicke's aphasia, however, is impossible to understand. Stroke survivors experiencing Wernicke's aphasia create sentences with words arranged in what sounds like a random fashion. This type of language pattern is sometimes referred to as logorrhea.

When someone experiences Wernicke's aphasia, they may say something like: “My door sat through the lamp in the sky.” It makes it impossible for listeners to understand what the person is trying to communicate.

As people with Wernicke's aphasia speak, they typically feel as though other people should understand them. This is caused by their inability to grasp the fact that their language is now impaired.

Patients with Wernicke’s aphasia might learn that others can’t understand them when they speak. As a result, they can become angry, paranoid, and depressed. Wernicke's aphasia is one of the most emotionally challenging events after a stroke.

Global Aphasia

This is a type of aphasia that occurs when damage in the brain is so widespread that it involves both Broca's and Wernicke’s language areas. Survivors with global aphasia are unable to understand spoken language or to speak at all. In some cases, people with global aphasias can still communicate by using written language.

Summary

Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by an injury to specific parts of the brain that control language. The injury can occur because of a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or brain infection (encephalitis).

The three kinds of aphasia are Broca's aphasia, Wernicke's aphasia, and global aphasia. All three interfere with your ability to speak and/or understand language.

A Word From Verywell

It is not easy living with aphasia. It's important to participate in therapy, including speech therapy, as you recover from your stroke.

Stroke survivors and loved ones benefit from understanding the subtle features of aphasia. This can help improve their communication and make recovery easier.

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Article Sources
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  1. Brain Injury Association of America. Functions of the brain. Published March 18, 2021.

  2. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Aphasia. Updated May 28, 2019.

  3. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Aphasia.

  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Aphasia information page. Updated October 2019.

  5. National Aphasia Association. Broca's (expressive) aphasia.

  6. National Aphasia Association. Wernicke's (receptive) aphasia.

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