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What is Broca's Aphasia?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Broca’s aphasia, also known as expressive aphasia, is a form of speech disorder in which a person is unable to properly form complete and articulate sentences. This condition typically occurs after a stroke or some form of injury to a region in the anterior portion of the brain known as Broca’s area. Broca’s aphasia does not typically affect a person’s ability to understand what someone else is saying, but instead affects that person’s ability to put his or her own thoughts into the correct words and to put those words in the proper order.

The most common cause of Broca’s aphasia is a stroke, during which the regular flow of oxygen is cut off to a portion of the brain. While this form of expressive aphasia can occur when a stroke affects a different portion of the brain, usually it is brought on by a stroke in or surrounding the Broca’s area. It is important to note that Broca’s aphasia is not a muscular disorder. This condition is not caused by an inability of a person to control his or her mouth or the muscles of the face.

Broca's aphasia is a neurological disorder. The person afflicted with this type of aphasia can form words and sentences just fine; he or she is simply not able to put the thoughts in his or her head into the proper order to express them correctly. In fact, many times a person will be able to repeat memorized phrases or songs perfectly, but not be able to repeat the lines of the song in a non-musical context.

Typically, a person suffering from Broca’s aphasia will be unable to properly use inflection in his or her speech. Someone suffering from this form of aphasia will also often have difficulty with sentence structures that change word order such as "wh" questions in the English language, which require subject movement in the sentence to form properly. Function words, which can include auxiliary verbs, prepositions, pronouns, and conjunctions, are often left out of sentences, leaving the remaining words disjointed and sometimes devoid of full meaning.

Fortunately for sufferers of Broca’s aphasia brought on by stroke, there is usually a decent amount of recovery possible. Most recovery by someone suffering from the condition will occur within the first year after a stroke or injury that brought on the disorder. During this time a certain amount of regular speech can be regained through a variety of treatments. No single course of treatment has been shown to be superior and the type of therapy applied is usually dependent upon the individual suffering from the condition. It is important to note, however, that depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal have all been shown to have a negative impact on a patient’s recovery and so anyone with the condition should be encouraged to continue his or her daily life as effectively as possible.

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