Types of aphasia

Aphasia is the partial or total loss of the ability to communicate with an individual who previously had normal ability. Aphasia can affect one’s capacity to speak, write, calculate, and in some cases, to understand a written or verbal message.

Aphasia is not a mental illness, but rather a consequence of damage suffered to the parts of the brain that control language.

A person with aphasia is neither confused nor amnesic, as they have full knowledge of his or her  difficulties. People with aphasia need to be received with an open mind, and need time to speak.

The different types of aphasia:

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Broca’s aphasia

This form of aphasia named after Paul Broca (1824-1880), French surgeon and anthropologist known especially for his discovery of the language centre in the human brain, is recognized by a reduction in expression, often accompanied by hemiplegia and motor speech problems: the individual speaks little, speaks slowly, and has trouble finding their words. He/she may have similar difficulties when trying to write. These writing difficulties are comparable to the difficulties in spoken language and cannot be simply attributed to any weakness or paralysis of the dominant right hand. Comprehension is relatively well-preserved.

It is also called aphasia of speech or expressive aphasia.

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Conduction aphasia

Conduction aphasia is manifested by hesitant speech caused by a difficulty in finding words and especially by numerous paraphasias, which means the individual mixes the sounds in words. Being aware of this, he/she makes successive attempts to correct it with trial and error. Sometimes, paraphasias are so abundant that they become a sort of jargon in the person’s language. Contrary to Wernicke’s aphasia which can sometimes resemble conduction aphasia, there are usually no major disturbances of comprehension. Conduction aphasia may be the result of a Wernicke’s aphasia that has evolved positively

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Global aphasia

Global aphasia is the most severe form of aphasia. The individual with global aphasia has almost no communication abilities and major problems in comprehension.  

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Mixted aphasia

Mixed aphasia implies both a reduction in expression and significant comprehension problems. 

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Progressive aphasia

The language problems in people with progressive aphasia arrive insidiously, the first symptom usually being a gradual loss of vocabulary. The problems are generally lexical and phonological, whereas in Alzheimer’s disease, the language difficulties are semantic.

The clinical portrait in terms of language is varied, and can be grouped into two broad categories: fluent and non-fluent aphasia.

Non-fluent progressive aphasia is generally characterized by a growing lack of vocabulary, phonemic and articulatory distortions, as well as agrammatism where language can disappear completely.  Elements of agraphia are noted in the written language, which deteriorates gradually as well. Comprehension difficulties generally appear in the early stages of evolution. These can be highlighted during comprehension testing, when the person attempts to complete complex comprehensive tasks, and these become accentuated over time.

Fluent progressive aphasia is characterized by logorrhea  and jargonistic speech, major disturbances of oral and written comprehension, as well as reading disorders, trouble reading out loud, and repetition.

Symptoms described may be consistent with any of the following: anomia,  Broca’s aphasia, mixed aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia  and word deafness.

People with primary progressive aphasia usually have a very good self-awareness, which generates a lot of frustration and anxiety. They express great anxiety about the gradual deterioration of their language and the likelihood of further deterioration in their overall cognitive abilities.

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Wernicke’s aphasia

Named after Carl Wernicke (1848 – 1905), German neurologist, who was one of the first to describe the types of aphasia. Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by significant difficulties in understanding what is said and what is written. The person with Wernicke’s aphasia speaks easily or even abundantly, yet may commit paraphasias and speak in jargon. He or she will experience the same difficulties when writing as when speaking. Some people, at least initially, are not always aware of their mistakes. Also called receptive aphasia, sensory aphasia, posterior aphasia.