Literally at a Loss for Words – 9 Facts About Broca’s Aphasia

Humans are social beings, and this makes detailed communication very important to us. Broca’s aphasia can influence that. The more complex the communication, the more things can go wrong too. What happens when the part of your brain that controls a lot of language and communication related function stops working like it should? Today, we will be learning about a neuropsychological condition called Broca’s aphasia.

What does Broca’s aphasia mean?

  1. This condition has a name that might puzzle you a little bit. The name clearly has two parts, “Broca’s” and “Aphasia.” But let’s treat the first one first. Broca’s area is a part of your brain at the frontal lobe (part) of the dominant half of your brain. In most people, this is the left half. This area of the brain is named after Pierre Paul Broca, who noted some interesting symptoms in his patients after this area of their brain had been damaged.
  2. These patients exibited a quite sudden inability to produce language. Broca’s area is often linked (both in theory and physically, by nerves) to Wernicke’s area, which also has language related functions. Where Broca’s area is mostly concerned with helping you produce words and sentences, Wernicke’s area is concerned with interpreting language through for example reading and writing.
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  3. Aphasia comes from the Greak “phanai,” which means “to speak”. The “a-“ is a negative affix. In this way, Broca’s aphasia means “an inability to speak because of damage in this specific area of the brain”.

Where does Broca’s aphasia happen?

  1. As mentioned in the previous section, Broca’s aphasia is characterised by damage in Broca’s area. This is an area of the brain that deals with producing language. You can find a more detailed location in the following image.

    It can happen when a patient has a stroke and that area gets damaged. Strokes are not the only way it can get damaged. Other causes are possible too.

  1. The important thing to note is that it does not affect someone’s general intelligence. You may be able to imagine how frustrating it must be to have the same intelligence as before damage, but a general inability to verbalise your thoughts and feelings.

How common is Broca’s aphasia?

  1. The most common cause (but not the only one) is indeed damage following a stroke. About 25 to 40% of stroke survivors ( It is slightly more common in people of higher ages.
  2. However, it occurs in people of all ages, races, nationality and genders. According to, about 180.000 Americans acquire Broca’s aphasia each year. Not all cases of aphasia are equally severe, and they can differ from individual to individual.

What are the consequences and symptoms of Broca’s aphasia?

  1. Problems finding words, forming sentences and verbalising thoughts and feelings are some of the most common characteristics.
  2. Some people who have Broca’s aphasia also have some weakness or paralysis in their right leg and/or right arm. This is because most people have a dominant left brain half, and Broca’s area is usually located in the dominant half of your brain. The majority of people is right handed. Since the brain is cross-wired, this means that the dominant half is often the left.

So, now you know why some people are literally at a loss for words. Are there any other conditions you would like psych2go to delve into? Let us know in the comments or on facebook or tumblr.

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Sources Broca’s Aphasia

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  1. question if anyone knows. how does Broca’s aphasia interact with sign language? is it easier for someone with Broca’s aphasia to use sign language to communicate rather than speech? or is it just as hard?

    1. MY mom had this, blood clot went to brain. Basically she relearn the language and vocabulary, only gained 30% of her capability, which is a lot but still frustating. I do hope other people do better. Answer to your question if sign language will help, the answer is no. Basically relearn everything in calm condition, anxiousness adds tension to learning.
      Sad part is she points something, name differently, but declined the appropriate name of the object, after numerous attempt, if lucky, she will come to realize the name of the object, name association of objects failing. Most common thing she say is, “uhmmmm… never mind”.

      Please understand my reluctancy, my heart was totally broken for about 10 years. She had aphasia, since 2004 passed away on 2012, sending hugs to people around her in any way she can.

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