3 Types of Aphasia That May Result From Stroke

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Aphasia is an impairment of language which occurs when someone suffers from an injury to the language areas of the brain. The language areas of the brain span regions of the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the parietal lobe.

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 side opposite the dominant hand.

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 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 function can be affected, while other language functions may remain intact.

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

There are a number of well-recognized aphasia syndromes that are characterized by certain patterns of speech and language that correspond to the areas of the brain damaged by a stroke. The three most common types of aphasia are:

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

Over 20 percent of all people who experience a stroke develop some form of aphasia.

Broca’s Aphasia/Motor Aphasia

This form of aphasia is named after the person who discovered the area of the brain that is responsible for generating speech. Broca's aphasia is at times called “motor aphasia” to emphasize that it is the production of language which is impaired, such as speaking, while other aspects of language are mostly preserved.

After a stroke, damage to Broca’s area results from the interruption of blood flow through the blood vessels that supply Broca's area, which is located in the dominant frontal lobe of the brain. Typically, Broca's aphasia prevents a person from forming intelligible words or sentences but 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 of your inability to transform your thoughts into words. Some stroke survivors with aphasia can say a few words which come out with a characteristic type of speech known as telegraphic speech.

Because some of the blood vessels that are affected in Broca’s aphasia also deliver blood to the areas of the brain that control movement of one side of the body (usually the right side), Broca’s aphasia is commonly accompanied by other impairments, including hemiparesis, or hemiplegia on the right side of the body, alexia, and agraphia.

Wernicke’s Aphasia

Wernicke’s aphasia is named after the person who discovered the areas of the brain that are responsible for language comprehension 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 incomprehensible, as stroke survivors with Wernicke's aphasia create sentences with words arranged in what sounds like a random fashion. For instance, you might hear a Wernicke’s aphasic say: “My door sat through the lamp in the sky.” This type of language pattern is sometimes referred to as logorrhea.

Nonetheless, when people with Wernicke's aphasia speak, they feel as though they should be understood. This is caused by the lack of awareness of their profound language impairment, (anosognosia). Over time, Wernicke’s aphasics might learn that others can’t understand them when they speak, so they might become angry, paranoid, and depressed. Wernicke's aphasia is one of the most emotionally challenging consequences after a stroke.

Global Aphasia

This is a type of aphasia that results when damage in the brain is extensive enough to involve both the Broca's and Wernicke’s language areas. Survivors with global aphasia are unable to understand spoken language or to speak. In some cases, however, people with global aphasias can still communicate by using written language.

A Word From Verywell

Aphasia is one of the consequences of stroke and other brain injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, and brain infection (encephalitis). It is not easy living with aphasia. It is valuable 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, which can help optimize communication and make recovery easier.

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