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An aphasia battery is a test designed to diagnose or eliminate the possibility of the presence of aphasia in an individual. Aphasia is a disorder caused by damage to the area of the brain that processes language. Because it is impossible to view the inside of the brain of a living person, the best way to identify the presence of aphasia is to perform a diagnostic test to determine whether the person's language abilities are within normal range or more closely approximate the abilities of an individual affected by aphasia.
When someone is suspected of having aphasia, a neurologist or speech-language pathologist will advise that the person undergo an aphasia battery in order to test the person's communication abilities. The specific language abilities tested will include language comprehension, the ability to produce spontaneous speech, the capacity to repeat the words and phrases of another person, and the ability to name things and recall words.
In order to test the individual's language abilities, the doctor or clinician performing the aphasia battery spends an extended period of time with the individual, recording the person's response to requests to perform various communication tasks. Those tasks include naming common objects, engaging in a simple conversation, following instructions, and repeating words and sentences. The individual being tested may also be asked to tell a story or explain the plot of a movie. Often, the battery will include a request to explain a joke or figurative phrase such as "it's raining cats and dogs."
To determine whether an individual with communication difficulties is suffering from aphasia or some other disorder, the language abilities of the individual must be compared with the typical language abilities of the population with aphasia and the population without aphasia. If the symptoms common to those with aphasia are present and the individual has suffered a stroke or some other brain trauma that could cause the disorder, aphasia may be diagnosed. For the neurologist or speech-language pathologist, an aphasia battery is but one piece of an aphasia assessment that lets the clinician either diagnose the disorder or eliminate the possibility of aphasia and move on to look at other possible causes of the communication difficulties.
Often, the aphasia battery will test the individual's language abilities in both spoken and written form. This is done because aphasia sometimes affects an individual's language abilities in only one language modality. Additionally, if the person suspected of suffering from aphasia speaks more than one language, testing may be performed in multiple languages since aphasia does not always affect all of the languages of an individual in the same way.