Sunday, July 1, 2007

Aphasia: A neurological challenge

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month. Aphasia is the total or partial inability to use or understand language. It is typically the result of stroke, brain disease or injury. These patients have no intellectual impairment and no outward sign of handicap.

There are two broad categories of aphasia:
1. Non-fluent or motor aphasia is an inability to enunciate words. Patients with this form of aphasia fully understand language and accommodate for their loss of speech by writing or drawing responses.
2. Fluent or receptive aphasia is an inability to understand words. These patients will often have difficulty finding the right word or following a command. They will sometimes make up new words to try and express their thoughts.

Injuries causing aphasia involve the dominant brain hemisphere which contains the neural pathways necessary for speech. In 95% of right-handed people and a majority of left-handed people, this is the left hemisphere.

Aphasia is a treatable condition. Speech pathologists are trained to perform detailed testing to fully analyze the extent of the impairment and implement a rehabilitation program. These programs require intense effort and patience on the part of people with aphasia. Newly designed computer software provides drills for patients as they retrain the neural pathways necessary for speech.

Recovery is often incomplete and can be frustrating for patients and those around them. Speaking slowly is essential, as is calmly waiting for a response. Aphasic patients are not deaf, yet there is often an inclination to speak loudly to someone who has a speech deficit.

Aphasia represents a fascinating neurological condition. If someone you know is recovering from aphasia, applaud their efforts and never underestimate their intellectual ability.
Anthony G. Alessi, MD, is a neurologist on The William W. Backus Hospital Medical Staff with a private practice at NeuroDiagnostics, LLC in Norwich. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Dr. Alessi and all of the Healthy Living columnists at

Good useful article, we live in India, my father in law has been diognised with receptive aphasia after the recent brain surgery that he had undergone. In searching the web for more info, I stumbled on this article and thought I will leave a note of appreciation. Thanks.
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