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Aphasia is the loss of the ability to use or comprehend language; either written, spoken, or both. It is caused by damage to the parts of the brain which control language. The extent and nature of aphasia will therefore vary between individuals; depending on the location and severity of damage to the brain.
Generally, aphasia can be classified in three main ways. Most patients will have a combination of these types, although one type of aphasia will tend to dominate.
In receptive aphasia, the part of the brain known as Wernicke’s area is damaged. Patients will experience difficulty in understanding written or spoken language.
Expressive aphasia involves damage to Broca’s area, and is characterised by the individual’s ability to comprehend language, but not to respond. Patients often know how they want to respond, but are unable to articulate the meaning. Words may be forced out slowly, with great difficulty. In most cases, patients are also unable to communicate through writing.
Global aphasia occurs when damage is done to the left temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. Patients are unable to understand, write or speak language. In some cases, however, they may be able to indicate their frustration through uttered expletives because the right hemisphere of the brain, which typically regulates emotions, remains undamaged.
Among older individuals, aphasia is the most common form of language disorder. The condition has been shown to respond well to speech therapy.