The differences between Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia

Aphasia is a loss of the ability to express and / or receive language due to injury or brain damage. There are different types of aphasia that affect, to a greater or lesser extent, different abilities related to the production and understanding of speaking, reading and writing, depending on the areas of the brain affected.

In this article we will talk about the differences between Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia, And we will see what are its characteristics and symptoms.

    Broca’s aphasia: definition, characteristics and symptoms

    Broca’s aphasia or expressive aphasia, motor or non-fluid, named in honor of French anatomist Paul Broca, Which has contributed to the study and understanding of the origins of this aphasia, is a language disorder caused by injury to the third frontal gyrus of the left hemisphere, known as the Brodmann zone 44 or Drill.

    Broca’s area is a region of the brain linked to the production and expression of language, as well as to the programming of verbal behaviors; that is, it is responsible for planning the necessary mouth and facial movements to pronounce and articulate the words. It is also involved in the morphosyntactic management of language and in the selection and discrimination of appropriate sounds (inhibition of irrelevant stimuli or sounds).

    People with this disorder have great difficulty articulating and verbalizing words and phrases, with great barrier to producing grammatically complex sentences (called agrammatism); in the end, they are not able to form meaningful sentences (for example, say “children’s book” instead of “child reads a book”).

    Likewise, speech becomes unproductive and not very fluid, With little verbal content; in addition, the patient tends to make mistakes and use repetitions and wedges when speaking. Problems with reading and writing also become evident, as do difficulty repeating sentences and pronouncing loose words or short sentences (the patient puts a lot of effort into this).

    The Broca zone is connected, via the curved fascicle, to another region of the brain involved in the reception of language, called the Wernicke zone. This region is linked to another type of aphasia that bears his name: Wernicke’s aphasia, which we will discuss later.

    Wernicke’s aphasia: definition, characteristics and symptoms

    Wernicke’s aphasia, sensory aphasia or receptor aphasia, is named after German neurologist Carl Wernicke, Who described this aphasia and studied its differences from motor or Broca’s aphasia, is a language disorder caused by injury to the posterior third of the superior temporal gyrus, known as Brodmann’s area 22. The area by Wernicke.

    The Wernicke region is a region of the brain responsible for understanding and receiving language. (Oral and written). It covers the posterior area of ​​the left temporal lobe. This region is activated when we speak words and when we hear them, and when we plan a speech. The main function of this brain area is to identify, process and interpret phonetic sequences and the meaning of sounds.

    The degree of involvement and the clinical manifestations of Wernicke’s aphasia are variable. Some people may develop a complete inability to understand spoken or written speech, while others may retain the ability to understand loose conversation or sentences.

    The main characteristics of this neurological disorder son:

    • Inability to understand the language, in all its variations, even if it is in short words or sentences.
    • Tired of following a conversation when she is lying down and difficulty following the thread, especially if there are distractors (ambient noise, other conversations, etc.)
    • Production of inconsistent language, with sentences or words that do not exist or are irrelevant.
    • Use of phonemic and semantic paraphrases; that is, replacing letters or syllables of a word with others and replacing one term with another with a similar meaning, respectively.
    • Literal interpretation of made-up sentences, ironies, or double-meaning expressions (eg, “To have no hair on your tongue” or “to be in the clouds”).
    • Use of neologisms (new or invented words).
    • Anomie: inability to recognize or memorize certain words or concepts.
    • Anosognosia: the person does not perceive that they have a deficit in understanding language.
    • Verborrhea and slang: excessive increase in spontaneous language and substitution of words with unintelligible words, respectively.
    • Difficulty repeating and naming words, and problems with reading and writing.

    Differences between Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia

    Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia involve speech impairment through injuries in various areas of the brain; however, the differences between one disorder and another.

    On the one hand, one of the fundamental differences concerns the function and location of the brain regions affected in the two aphasias. In Broca, the person’s ability to express his tongue is affected by lesions of the frontal areas, as opposed to that of Wernicke, in which the person’s tongue is affected, by lesions of the areas of the temporal lobe.

    In contrast, in Wernicke’s aphasia, there is a severe deficit in speech understanding and patients are unaware of it; on the other hand, in Broca’s aphasia, language comprehension is hardly affected and the patient has the feeling that he understands speech better than he can express himself.

    Another notable difference between Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia concerns speech fluency.. Patients with Broca’s aphasia are not able to speak fluently, while people with Wernicke’s aphasia are able to maintain this fluency. Likewise, the repetition ability is impaired in both aphasias, but naming problems usually occur more in Broca’s aphasia than in Wernicke’s aphasia.

    Regarding reading and writing, it should be noted that in both types of aphasia these processes are impaired; however, in Wernicke’s aphasia, graphics and some automatisms are generally preserved.

    Finally, in terms of age, it was found that younger patients are more likely to have Broca’s aphasia and those with older Wernicke’s aphasia, with an average difference of 12 years between the two types of aphasia.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Ardila, A. (2005). Aphasias. University of Guadalajara, University Center for Social and Human Sciences.
    • Vendrell, JM (2001). Aphasias: semiology and clinical types. Journal of Neurology, 32 (10), 980-986.

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