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Thursday, December 31, 2009

What is Broca’s Speech?

By Kristie Leong MD on December 30th, 2009
Broca’s speech is a certain type of speech pattern that occurs after brain injury or stroke. Here’s what you need to know about this speech and language disorder.

Do you know someone who’s had a stroke and has problems forming words or complete sentences? This type of speech problem is known by the medical term of aphasia. Aphasia occurs when a portion of the brain associated with speech is damaged or destroyed. Damage to these areas can come not only from strokes, but also from head injury, tumor, or degeneration of the brain due to Alzheimer’s disease. Some people with disease or injury to the speech centers of the brain develop Broca’s speech – a type of speech pattern that comes from damage to Broca’s area of the brain.

Where is Broca’s Area?

Broca’s area is located in the frontal lobe in the front of the brain. Damage to this area causes a distinct type of speech pattern called Broca’s speech or non-fluent aphasia. Although people with this problem can understand the speech of others, they have a problem forming sentences and usually speak in short, choppy phrases – often omitting words. For example, a person with Broca’s speech might say, “Ready dinner” when their intention is to say “I’m ready to eat dinner”. Fortunately, in most cases they’re able to articulate well enough to get their point across!

Another Type of Aphasia

Broca’s speech differs from another type of aphasia due to damage to another portion of the brain – the temporal lobe. Damage to the portion of the temporal lobe known as Wernicke’s area causes a type of speech problem known as fluent aphasia. When a person with fluent aphasia talks they usually speak in very long sentences and include unnecessary and inappropriate words and words that have no meaning. In contrast to Broca’s speech where speech patterns can be more easily deciphered, people who have damage to Wernicke’s area are more challenging to understand.

Can Broca’s Speech Be Improved with Treatment?

It depends upon the cause. If it’s due to a tumor that can be removed surgically, there’s a good chance of normal speech recovery

. If Broca’s speech is coming from a degenerative process in the brain, speech restoration is less likely. Most commonly Broca’s speech comes from a stroke where blood flow to Broca’s area is temporarily reduced. In these cases, partial or complete recover may occur over time, but most people are left with some lingering speech abnormalities. The best treatment is intensive speech therapy which should be started as soon as possible after Broca’s speech develops. A speech pathologist can help a person with Broca’s speech recover some of their language fluency using speech retraining exercises.

Broca’s Speech: The Bottom Line

Broca’s speech is most commonly seen after a stroke and involves the frontal lobe of the brain. With time and intensive speech retraining, some people with this type of speech can recover at least some of their former language function.

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