Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brain injury can affect ability to communicate

Brain injury can affect ability to communicate

Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke (about 25 to 40 percent of stroke survivors acquire aphasia). Brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors or from infections. The condition is determined by the location and size of the area of damage in the brain.

You can help

Improvement is a slow process that usually involves helping the individual and family understand the nature of aphasia and learning possible strategies for communicating.

Depression is a common side effect of a stroke. Watch carefully for signs and let the doctor know about these signs. Aphasics often want to stay by themselves.

Try to work with your loved one and include him or her in family activities. Taking the person out helps to socialize again.

Singing taps into right-brain stimulation and helps the left brain reorganize after a stroke. Sing songs such as "Happy Birthday," or recite rote things we knew as children, even the rosary. Also, give compliments such as, "you're getting better and better every day."

Suggestions for daily exercises include:

  • Speak in simple sentences and try to stick to one idea and one action. Spend time reading to your loved one or talking about your day.
  • Give the person with aphasia time to speak and do not finish the person's sentences unless asked. Praise any efforts the person makes to speak. Be sensitive to background noise and turn off competing sounds such as radios or TVs where possible.
  • Be open to means of communicating other than speech, such as drawings and gesturing.

    Don't be alarmed if the person cries easily or laughs inappropriately. Impulse control is often affected by stroke but can get better.

    For more resources

    Call the Allied Health licensing board at 734-7406 for a list of speech/language pathologists who provide therapy for aphasics. The purpose of speech therapy is to help the patient to fully utilize remaining skills and to learn compensatory means of communication. A stroke support group is in the planning stages.

    Renee Veksler is a Guam Memorial Hospital health educator and a community partner with the Get Healthy Guam Coalition. She may be contacted at 647-2350/1.

  • Sunday, March 16, 2008


    After discussing the devastating social consequences following a lesion in Wernicke’s area, I was motivated to delve deeper into the functions of this area. Present research has classified Wernicke’s aphasia as “an impairment of language comprehension and in speech that has a natural-sounding rhythm and a relatively normal syntax, but otherwise has not recognizable meaning.” Are researchers, therefore, claiming that there is no pattern or rhyme and reason to the speech produced by these patients? I have trouble fully believing such a statement when we are still so limited in our understanding of the inner workings of the mind. The example given in class was: “I called my mother on the television and did not understand the door. It was too breakfast, but they came from far to near. My mother is not too old for me to be young.” Although...

    Symptoms of Motor Aphasia

    Symptoms of Motor Aphasia.–The patient cannot make the muscles of the
    larynx, tongue, palate and lips perform their functions and produce
    speech. The patient knows what he wishes to say, but cannot pronounce it.
    This may be complete or partial. Complete, when the patient can only utter
    separate sounds. Partial, when the words are only slightly mispronounced
    and when some certain words cannot be pronounced at all. In some cases,
    nouns only or verbs cannot be pronounced. Agraphia, means inability to
    write down the thoughts. Sensory aphasia: word deafness. This is an....

    Thursday, January 17, 2008

    Stroke Blog

    From Jose Vega M.D., Ph.D.,
    Your Guide to Stroke.
    Recently, someone I know whose husband became aphasic from a stroke asked me whether she would ever be able to again have a normal conversation with her husband. I knew that her husband's stroke was large, but based on that I did not feel I had enough information to make a meaningful comment about recovery. I told her, in one sentence, everything I knew about the prognosis of aphasia after stroke: "at least some partial recovery should happen by the third month after the stroke, and after that, your husband will probably continue to recover slowly over the years". Worried that she would not be able to enjoy another conversation with her husband, she then asked me how much function he would be able to recover. "Will he be able to talk to me again?"

    I was at a loss. In spite of great advances in stroke neurology, little is known about the recovery of language function after stroke. Some studies have shown that some language ability can be recovered by the third month after a stroke, while other studies suggest that recovery can continue to happen gradually for many years. However, the degree of recovery a person will experience has traditionally been difficult to predict, at least in the early days after a stroke. The reason for this uncertainty is that almost anything can happen in language recovery after stroke. Some small strokes affecting language areas can cause permanent language deficits while some very large ones can induce minor, transient impairments, or no impairments at all. The only known predictor of recovery is how good a person's language function is before they suffer a stroke. Other factors like age, education, and even the size of the stroke provide no help in predicting language recovery.

    For stroke doctors, knowing the potential for language recovery early after a stroke represents more than just the ability to answer the prognosis-related questions of patients and their families. Recent research shows that in the first few hours after a stroke the function of the brain undergoes some degree of reorganization by which some of the parts which are spared by the stroke appear to start working overtime, perhaps in an attempt to recover lost function . By studying these changes in the brains of patients who regain language function after stroke, scientists can identify parts of the brain which are involved in recovery, and implement therapies that enhance function in those areas.

    However, before any conclusions can be reached, further research is needed to understand what these early changes in brain function after stroke mean and whether they can be used to induce recovery in the early stages after a stroke.