What is nonfluent aphasia?

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

In general, nonfluent aphasia is characterized by difficulty in language production, which can range from mild to severe. This difficulty may apply only to spoken or written language, or to both. A sufferer of this type of aphasia may form very short and difficult sentences, such as "I'm going to the store," and may also have trouble pronouncing words correctly. However, despite its abrupt and unusual qualities, the speech of an individual with nonfluent aphasia generally retains a basic logic and is therefore understandable by others. Also, in most cases, an individual with this type of aphasia has little or no problem receiving communication, whether oral or written.

Nonfluent aphasia is caused by 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 from a stroke, brain tumor, or head trauma, the ability to produce speech and writing can be inhibited or even disappear altogether. Since Broca's area does not control incoming communication, the ability to receive communication is generally not affected by damage confined to the area.

Along with non-fluent aphasia, there are several other types of aphasia. Each type involves different areas of the brain and consequently affects the ability to communicate in a different way. In the form known as Wernicke's aphasia, for example, an individual has difficulty receiving incoming language and tends to speak and write in long, meaningless sentences. Global aphasia usually occurs when multiple parts of the brain have been injured, and patients partially or completely lose the ability to communicate in and out.

With treatment, those with nonfluent aphasia can partially restore their outgoing communication skills. 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 can help them recover by trying to engage them in simple, regular conversations.

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