Broca's Aphasia

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What Is Broca's Aphasia?

Broca’s aphasia is a type of aphasia. Aphasia is the inability to understand speech or to produce fluent and coherent speech. Aphasia results from a language problem that started after normal language was already established. Thus aphasia, the loss of language ability, is described as an acquired language deficit, not a developmental language deficit (developmental language deficit means that a person did not develop normal language abilities.) It has been estimated that more than one million people in the United States suffer from aphasia.

Broca's aphasia, also known as motor aphasia, is a specific speech and language problem. It is characterized by the inability to form complete sentences. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Broca's aphasia, you might notice that your speech lacks normal fluency or rhythm, and that you have a  hesitant, choppy speech pattern. One of the characteristics of Broca's aphasia is that language comprehension is often normal or nearly normal.

Broca's Area

Broca's aphasia is the result of damage to a specific region in the frontal lobe of the brain called 'Broca's area.' Broca's area is one of several language areas of the brain. The language areas of the brain are located in one side  of the brain. Typically, the language areas are located on the left hemisphere, as the left hemisphere is the dominant language hemisphere for most people. A person's dominant hemisphere is the side that controls language function and it is typically the side opposite a person's dominant hand.

Any type of damage to Broca's area affects the way a person puts words together to form complete sentences. Broca's aphasia is characterized as “non-fluent aphasia” because people who have Broca's aphasia struggle to speak more than one word at a time.

Causes of Broca’s Aphasia

Broca’s aphasia is most commonly seen in people who have had a stroke affecting Broca's area, but it can result from any of the following medical conditions if they involve Broca's area:

Symptoms of Broca’s Aphasia

People who have Broca’s aphasia experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty forming complete sentences
  • Omission of pronouns, articles, and conjunctions when speaking
  • Mutism
  • Ability to understand and follow commands
  • Difficulty writing
  • Impaired reading ability
  • Weakness or paralysis on the right side of the body. This is caused by damage to the motor region of the brain, which is near Broca's area, and thus may become damaged by the same process that caused the aphasia (stroke, brain tumor, head trauma etc.)
  • Depression
  • Impaired expression of emotions

Diagnosis of Broca’s Aphasia

Aphasia is usually diagnosed during a medical evaluation. If you or your loved one has aphasia, your medical team will recognize your pattern of speech during your medical evaluation. You might be asked to speak and repeat certain phrases, or to read, write or name objects so that your team can identify your specific type of aphasia.

You may need to have a brain CT or a brain MRI to determine whether you have had a stroke, a brain infection, an injury from head trauma or a tumor.

As you are having your medical evaluation, you might see a speech-language therapist for a consultation.

Expect the speech specialist to carefully examine your speech pattern and the way you form words during the evaluation. Your speech therapist will likely prescribe a recommendation for therapy to improve your ability to speak.

Treatment of Broca’s Aphasia

Some people who have Broca's aphasia experience at least some recovery even without treatment or therapy. Usually, speech exercises and tailored session that help you practice your speech can allow you to have even more improvement.

In addition to speech therapy, you will likely also need treatment for the cause of your aphasia, whether it is a stroke, a brain tumor, an infection, or a head injury.

A Word From Verywell

One of the hallmarks of Broca's aphasia is that people who have Broca's aphasia are able to understand speech and are typically aware of the problem. While this is frustrating for anyone who is living with Broca's aphasia, this characteristic helps a great deal in terms of recovery.

If you or your loved one has Broca's aphasia, the preserved ability to understand can make it much easier to actively participate in therapy than with other types of aphasia.

Sources:

Evidence of cortical reorganization of language networks after stroke with subacute Broca's aphasia: a blood oxygenation level dependent-functional magnetic resonance imaging study, Qiu WH, Wu HX, Yang QL, Kang Z, Chen ZC, Li K, Qiu GR, Xie CQ, Wan GF, Chen SQ, Neural Regen Res. 2017 Jan;12(1):109-117

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