Aphasia is a neurological disorder caused by injury to the language-controlling regions of the brain. These areas are often found on the left side of most people's brains. Aphasia typically manifests itself abruptly as a result of a stroke or head injury, but it can also manifest gradually as a result of a brain tumour or a degenerative neurological illness. Language expression and understanding, as well as reading and writing, are all hampered by the syndrome. Aphasia can exist alongside brain-damaged speech disorders such dysarthria or apraxia of speech.
Who is Susceptible to Aphasia?
Although most persons with aphasia are in their forties or older, it can affect anyone, including children. According to the National Aphasia Association, around 1 million Americans currently have aphasia, with nearly 180,000 developing it each year.
What is the Root Cause of Aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by injury to one or more of the brain's language regions. A stroke is the most common cause of brain damage. A stroke happens when a blood clot or a leaky or burst artery cuts off blood supply to an area of the brain. Brain cells die when they do not receive the regular flow of blood that supplies oxygen and important nutrients to them. Brain damage can be caused by severe head injuries, brain tumours, gunshot wounds, brain infections, and degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
What Kinds of Aphasia are there?
Aphasia is classified into two types: Fluent and Non-Fluent, each with multiple subcategories.
Wernicke's aphasia, the most frequent type of fluent aphasia, can be caused by temporal lobe brain damage. Wernicke's aphasia patients may speak in extended, meaningless phrases, adding unneeded words and even inventing new terms. "You know that smoodle pinkered, and I want to get him around and take care of him like you wanted before," someone with Wernicke's aphasia would say. As a result, understanding what the individual is seeking to express is frequently challenging. People suffering from Wernicke's aphasia are frequently unaware of their spoken errors. Another symptom of this type of aphasia is trouble understanding spoken language.
Broca's aphasia is the most prevalent type of non-fluent aphasia. Broca's aphasia is caused by a brain damage to the frontal lobe. Because the frontal lobe is so important for motor actions, they frequently experience right-sided arm and leg weakness or paralysis. Broca's aphasia patients hear speech and understand what they want to say, but they frequently speak in short, laborious words. They frequently leave off simple words like "is," "and" and "the".
A person with Broca's aphasia, for example, may say, "Walk dog," which means "I will take the dog for a walk," or "book book two table," which means "There are two books on the table". Broca's aphasia patients typically understand other people's speech fairly well. As a result, they are frequently aware of their limitations and can become quickly frustrated.
Global aphasia is caused by damage to extensive parts of the language centres of the brain. Individuals with global aphasia have difficulty communicating and may be severely limited in their ability to speak or understand language. They may be unable to articulate a few syllables or may repeatedly say or write the same phrases or sentences. Even simple phrases and sentences may be difficult for them to understand.
There are several forms of aphasia, each caused by injury to various language centres of the brain. Even if they comprehend and can talk fluently, some persons may have trouble repeating words and sentences (conduction aphasia). Others may struggle to name objects even though they know what they are and what they might be used for (anomic aphasia).
Occasionally, blood supply to the brain is disrupted and swiftly restored. When this sort of injury, known as a transient ischemic attack, happens, linguistic abilities may restore within a few hours or days.
How is Aphasia identified?
Aphasia is frequently diagnosed while treating a patient for a brain injury. The vast majority of people will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan to confirm the existence and location of a brain injury. Following directions, answering questions, naming objects, and chatting are all examples of how the doctor will examine the patient's ability to grasp and generate words.
When a doctor suspects aphasia, the patient is frequently referred to a speech-language pathologist, who thoroughly evaluates the patient's communication ability. All of these abilities are carefully tested, including the capacity to communicate, transmit ideas, converse socially, interpret language, and read and write.
What is the treatment for Aphasia?
The brain experiences significant alterations following a brain injury that aid in rehabilitation. As a result, even in the absence of treatment, people with aphasia generally show exceptional increases in language and communication abilities in the first few months. However, some aphasia lingers after the initial healing period in many situations. Speech-language therapy is utilised in these cases to assist individuals regain their capacity to communicate.
According to research, language and communication abilities can improve for many years and are occasionally followed by new activity in brain tissue around the damaged area. The quantity of rehabilitation can be influenced by the source of the brain injury, the area of the brain that was damaged, and the extent of the damage, as well as the individual's age and health.
Aphasia therapy aims to restore a person's communication skills by aiding him or her in utilising residual language abilities, restoring language abilities as much as feasible, and learning alternate modes of communication such as gestures, drawings, or technological device use. Individual treatment is tailored to the needs of the individual, whilst group therapy allows you to practise new communication skills in a small group setting.
Because of technological improvements, people with aphasia now have access to new tools. "Virtual" speech pathologists provide patients the flexibility and convenience of receiving therapy from the comfort of their own homes via computer. Speech-generating programmes on mobile devices such as tablets can also provide an alternate method of communication for persons who have trouble speaking.
Patients with aphasia are increasingly participating in activities such as literature clubs, technology groups, and art and theatre organisations. Such experiences assist patients in regaining confidence and social self-esteem, as well as enhancing their communication abilities. Stroke clubs, which are regional support organisations created by stroke survivors, are accessible in most large cities. These organisations can help a person and his or her family adjust to the life changes brought on by stroke and aphasia.
Family engagement is frequently an important component of aphasia treatment since it teaches family members how to interact effectively with their loved one.
Family members are urged to participate:
What Studies are being Conducted on Aphasia?
New speech-language treatment methods are being tested in patients with both recent and chronic aphasia to see if they can help with word retrieval, grammar, prosody (tone), and other aspects of speech recovery.
Improved cognitive abilities that aid in language processing, such as short-term memory and attention, are among some of these unique ways. Others include tasks that stimulate brain representations of sounds, words, and phrases, making them more accessible and retrievable.
Drug therapy is also being investigated as an experimental technique to treating aphasia. Some researchers are looking into whether pharmaceuticals that change the brain's chemical neurotransmitters can be used in conjunction with speech-language therapy to aid recovery of specific linguistic functions.
Another field of research is the use of modern imaging tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to study how language is processed in the normal and damaged brain, as well as recovery mechanisms. This type of research could help us understand how the parts of the brain involved in speech and language comprehension reorganise following a brain damage. The findings may influence how aphasia and other neurological diseases are diagnosed and treated.
Non-invasive brain stimulation combined with speech-language therapy is a new topic of study in aphasia research. TMS and tDCS are two types of brain stimulation that change normal brain function in the area that is stimulated.
Initially, researchers employed these tools to better understand the brain regions involved in language and stroke rehabilitation. Scientists are currently investigating whether this brief change in brain activity can help patients re-learn how to utilise language. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) is funding a number of clinical trials in which these devices are being examined.