Broca’s aphasia: Journeys to the brain-11

In aphasia, we either lose or impair the ability either to understand the language or talk – or else both depending on the extent of the brain damage. The nature of the loss or impairment varies with the area of the damage in the brain. Broca’s aphasia – a special type of aphasia occurs when the neurons die populated in the Broca’s area. You can find about the Broca’s area in my Broca area: Journeys to the brain-10

How Broca’s aphasia occurs in a stroke

Stroke – more commonly due to a blood clot – disrupts the blood supply to the brain in a speed of light; the clot plugs the anterior branch of the middle cerebral artery cutting off blood supply to the Broca’s area. Due to the lack of oxygen, neurons residing in the region begin to die en masse like trees engulfed in a massive wildfire – 32,000 neurons per second! This emergency situation, like a blow to the head, results in Broca’s aphasia.

What really happens in Broca’s aphasia?

Remember Paul Broca’s first patient? – Mr Leborgne who was named as “Monsieur tan”?. He was able to say only one word – “tan”. As in the case of “monsieur tan”, those with Broca’s aphasia do not lose speech completely; they cannot talk now as they used; because, the neurons who did the job is no more there.

Let us find out what those with Broca’s aphasia can and cannot – or difficult – to do. These problems become more pronounced when the block happens in left side of the brain. First, we start with what they can do.

What those with Broca’s aphasia can do

  • They can hear.
  • They can read.
  • They can understand simple – not complex – instructions.

What they cannot (or difficult) to do  

  • They can talk but only less than 4 – 5 words at a time
  • They can talk simulating telegraphic speech.
  • Their sentences lack grammatical sense – both in talking and writing.
  • They use nouns without verbs.
  • They have difficulty in repeating.
  • They have a difficulty to respond to complex instructions: for example, touch nose after touching toes.

A person with Broca’s aphasia

Following video clip will help to appreciate what a person with Broca’s aphasia can and cannot do.

A person with Broca’s aphasia

What is the usefulness of knowing these things?

  • What they can or cannot do within a few days after the stroke help predicting the area/s of the brain affected, where neurons are dying as highlighted in the paper authored by Elisa Oschfeld et al.
  • The brains of many with Broca’s aphasia do not allow them to live with those problems long; recovery can be immediate due to the restoration of blood flow as shown by Cameron Davis and their research team or may happen later possibly due to the execution of the brains’ plan B – reorganizing adjacent neurons to take over the dead neurons’ job as speculated in the paper authored by Elisa Oschfeld et al..

Author: Prasantha De Silva

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