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What Is Nonfluent Aphasia?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

Nonfluent aphasia, also commonly known as Broca’s aphasia, is a communication disorder in which an individual has difficulty producing speech. It results from injury to the left frontal region of the brain. Along with nonfluent aphasia, there are several other types of aphasia, each which affects communication in a different way. With treatment, some aphasia sufferers can partly restore their ability to communicate.

In general, nonfluent aphasia is characterized by a difficulty in producing language, which can range from mild to severe. This difficulty can apply to spoken language or written language alone, or to both. A sufferer of this type of aphasia may form very short, labored sentences, such as “I go store,” and may also have trouble pronouncing words properly. Despite its abrupt, unusual qualities, however, the speech of an individual with nonfluent aphasia usually retains a basic logic and can thus be understood by others. Further, in most cases an individual with this type of aphasia has little or no trouble receiving communication, whether aural or written.

Woman with a headache
Woman with a headache

The cause of nonfluent aphasia is damage to a specific section of the left frontal region of the brain, commonly known as Broca’s area. Normally, Broca’s area is responsible for controlling outgoing communication. When the area is damaged, most often by a stroke, brain tumor, or head trauma, the ability to produce speech and writing can become inhibited or can even disappear completely. As Broca’s area does not control incoming communication, the ability to receive communication is usually unaffected by damage confined to the area.

Along with nonfluent aphasia, there are several other types of aphasia. Each type involves different areas of the brain, and consequently affects one’s ability to communicate in a different way. In the form known as Wernicke’s aphasia, for instance, an individual has difficulty receiving incoming language and tends to speak and write in long, nonsensical sentences. Global aphasia usually occurs when multiple parts of the brain have been injured, and sufferers partially or fully lose both incoming and outgoing communication ability.

With treatment, sufferers of nonfluent aphasia may be able to partly restore their outgoing communication abilities. In most cases, treatment involves ongoing sessions with a speech pathologist or other language therapist. Those who regularly interact with an individual who has been diagnosed with nonfluent aphasia may be able to aid his recovery by seeking to engage him in regular, simple conversations.

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