Aphasia: 3 Types That Can Result From Stroke

Stroke is a known risk factor of aphasia

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Aphasia means you have trouble speaking, writing, or understanding language. Aphasia happens when a part of the brain that helps with language (the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, or the parietal lobe) is damaged.

Aphasia after a stroke is common but can also be caused by a traumatic brain injury, a brain tumor, or an infection of the brain.

This article will focus on the three types of post-stroke aphasia. You will learn how each type of aphasia after a stroke is different and how post-stroke aphasia is diagnosed.

What Is Aphasia?

The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke because of how the blood vessels are arranged in the brain.

The frontal lobe of your brain 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.

Several regions of the brain control language. The language function is located in 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).

If one of the language regions of the brain is injured but the others are healthy, only some language functions are affected.

Symptoms of Aphasia After a Stroke

People with post-stroke aphasia may have trouble talking or understanding what other people are saying when they're talking. They may also struggle to communicate in other ways like writing.

Symptoms of Aphasia
 Verywell / JR Bee

Some people with aphasia after a stroke are still able to speak but may struggle to "find the right word" when they're talking. They may also start forgetting words or using the wrong words when they talk.

Diagnosing Aphasia After a Stroke

Post-stroke aphasia is diagnosed the same way as aphasia from another cause would be. That said, there are different types of aphasia that can happen after a stroke.

Examples of exams and tests that you may need to diagnose post-stroke aphasia include:

  • Tests of your thinking and language skills by your regular provider and/or a speech-language pathologist (for example, answering questions verbally and in writing)
  • Scans of your brain (MRI, CT, or PET scans)
  • Blood tests (for example, to look for signs of infection)

3 Types of Post-Stroke Aphasia

There are several well-known aphasia syndromes. Each type of aphasia has its own patterns of speech and language. These are the types of aphasia that would likely occur after a stroke.

About 15% of people under age 65 who have a stroke develop some form of aphasia. Nearly 45% of people over age 85 develop post-stroke aphasia.

Each aphasia pattern relates to the area of the brain that was damaged by a stroke. The three most common types of aphasia are:

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

Broca's Aphasia/Motor Aphasia

Broca's aphasia was named after the person who discovered the area of the brain responsible for creating speech. Broca's aphasia is also 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 happens 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 has little or no effect on their ability to understand others when they are speaking.

If you have Broca's aphasia, you might feel frustrated that you cannot turn your thoughts into words. Some people with this type of post-stroke aphasia are only able to say a couple of words—what's called language telegraphic speech.

Broca’s aphasia often occurs with other problems after a stroke because some of the blood vessels affected in Broca’s aphasia also deliver blood to areas of the brain that control the movement of one side of the body (usually the right side).

People with Broca's aphasia after a stroke may also experience:

  • Hemiparesis (weakness) or hemiplegia (paralysis) on the right side of the body
  • Alexia (inability to read) and agraphia (inability to write)

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 of the brain.

People with Wernicke’s aphasia can’t understand others—or even themselves—when they speak.

When people with Wernicke's aphasia after a stroke talk, their speech cannot be understood because they create sentences with words arranged in a random way. This type of language pattern is called logorrhea.

A person with Wernicke's aphasia may say something like: “My door sat through the lamp in the sky.”

Wernicke's aphasia is one of the most emotionally challenging effects of a stroke. When people with Wernicke's aphasia speak, they usually feel as though other people should be able to understand them. They do not realize that their language is impaired.

However, people with Wernicke’s aphasia after a stroke may eventually learn that others cannot understand them when they speak—a realization that can lead to anger, fear, and depression.

Global Aphasia

Global aphasia after a stroke occurs when the brain damage is so widespread that it involves both Broca's and Wernicke’s language areas.

Stroke survivors with global aphasia are unable to understand spoken language and cannot speak at all. However, some people with post-stroke global aphasia can still communicate with written language.

Post-Stroke Aphasia Treatment

The treatment for aphasia after a stroke is similar to how aphasia from other causes is treated. Each person with aphasia has different needs, and not every person with aphasia after a stroke responds to the same kind of treatment. Some people may need to have more than one type of treatment.

For example, a person living with post-stroke aphasia may benefit from:

  • Speech-language therapy
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Counseling and mental health support
  • Medications

Some researchers are also exploring whether techniques like brain stimulation can help people with aphasia.

Summary

Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by an injury to specific parts of the brain that control language. Aphasia after a stroke is common but a traumatic brain injury or brain infection can also cause aphasia.

The three kinds of post-stroke aphasia are Broca's aphasia, Wernicke's aphasia, and global aphasia, which all affect your ability to speak and/or understand language. Treatment may include speech-language therapy, medications, and counseling and mental health support.

A Word From Verywell

Living with post-stroke aphasia is challenging. Speech therapy and other treatments can help you manage the symptoms of aphasia as well as any other symptoms you have after a stroke.

Stroke survivors and loved ones benefit from understanding aphasia. This knowledge can improve their communication and help them cope with the disorder.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the treatment options for aphasia?

    Aphasia after a stroke can be treated with various types of rehabilitation and medications, but one of the most important parts for most patients is speech-language therapy.

    This treatment helps improve a person's ability to communicate in three ways:

    • Assist with using remaining language abilities
    • Restore language abilities as much as possible
    • Learn other ways of communication (gestures, pictures, use of electronic devices).

    Treatment can be done using individual therapy or group therapy, usually in a small group setting.

  • What is expressive aphasia?

    Expressive aphasia is a term sometimes used to describe Broca's aphasia. This is because a person with Broca's aphasia is often capable of speaking in short, meaningful sentences, but may not use the words "and" and "the" in their language. People with expressive aphasia can usually understand the speech of others.

  • What is receptive aphasia?

    In receptive aphasia, a person is able to produce fluent speech, but they may not understand what they're saying. Their speech may make no sense, and they may be unable to read and write. Other names for the condition include Wernicke's aphasia and fluent aphasia.

  • What is the speech center of the brain?

    Broca's area may be considered the speech center of the brain. Broca's area, located in the frontal cortex, plays a vital role in communication.

  • How can I help someone with aphasia?

    Learning about the condition is one of the best ways you can support someone with aphasia. Communication can be challenging, so finding ways to help your loved one communicate and feel heard and understood is key.

  • Can someone with aphasia drive?

    Whether or not a person with aphasia can drive depends on their situation. A provider may decide that it's safe for them to drive. However, it's also possible that having aphasia would make it unsafe for a person to drive, especially if they could not read and understand signs on the road.

  • What type of stroke causes aphasia?

    Strokes that happen in the parts of the brain that help you talk and understand what other people are saying can lead to aphasia.

    That said, most lobes of your brain are involved in speech and language in one way or another, which means that post-stroke aphasia is common in people who have any type of stroke. The type of aphasia they have will depend on the location of the stroke in the brain.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Aphasia.

  2. Brain Injury Association of America. Functions of the Brain.

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

  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Aphasia Information Page.

  5. National Aphasia Association. Broca's (Expressive) Aphasia.

  6. National Aphasia Association. Wernicke's (Receptive) Aphasia.

  7. Fridriksson J, Hillis AE. Current Approaches to the Treatment of Post-Stroke AphasiaJ Stroke. 2021;23(2):183-201. doi:10.5853/jos.2020.05015

  8. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Aphasia.

  9. Cleveland Clinic. Aphasia.

  10. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Broca's Area Is the Brain's Scriptwriter, Shaping Speech, Study Finds.

  11. Mackenzie C, Paton G. Resumption of driving with aphasia following stroke. Aphasiology. Vol 17; Sep 10 2010. doi:10.1080/729255215

Additional Reading

By Jose Vega MD, PhD
Jose Vega MD, PhD, is a board-certified neurologist and published researcher specializing in stroke.