Some aspects of Korsakof-Wernicke aphasia

Essay, 2000
11 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Linguistics is a wide field. It consists not only of the analysis of the speech of healthy people and people that run through the educational system without any complications.

One very important part of linguistics and communication studies is the analysis of communication disorders. But it might be assumed that people with communication disorders are only a small minority. But that is not true. In the UK there are for example more than four million illiterates. There are phenomena like autism or Alzheimer’s disease, a dementia. But some people suffer from aphasia and amnesia.

There is motor aphasia (e.g. Broca’s aphasia), sensory aphasia (e.g. Wernicke’s aphasia) and global aphasia. In this essay I will describe the so-called Korsakoff Wernicke aphasia (KWA), which is an aphasia combined with different types of amnesia. Amnesia is a memory disorder and this essay suggests that memory disorders have consequences for human communication and must therefore be also regarded as communication disorders. I will describe the characteristics of Korsakoff Wernicke aphasia, locate it in a diagram, mention some test methods for its appeal and cite case studies. Furthermore I will illustrate the memory defect with a memory model.

Korsakoff’s syndrome is severe amnesia that is the result of strong alcohol abuse.

Korsakoff’s syndrome is defined as “Korsakoff’s syndrome (Korsakoff’s psychosis):

an organic disorder affecting the brain that results in a memory defect in which new information fails to be learnt although events from the past are still recalled, disorientation for time and place; and a tendency to invent material to fill memory blanks (see confabulation). The commonest cause for the condition is alcoholism, especially when this has led to deficiency of thiamin (vitamin B1). Large doses of thiamin are given as treatment. The condition often becomes chronic.[S.S. Korsakoff (1854-1900), Russian neurologist]”(Oxford Concise Colour Medical Dictionary, 1998).

Neuropsychology puts the term Korsakoff’s syndrome synonym with Korsakoff Wernicke aphasia. Some scientists refer to it only as the amnesic syndrome.

Delirium tremens is not Korsakoff’s syndrome, but the first sign of the severe Effect on the brain caused by alcohol abuse. In both cases alcohol poisons the brain.

Neuropsychology talks of Korsakoff’s syndrome, “when the memory is severely impaired as a long term effect of Wernicke’s Encephalopathy” (Parkin, 1997).

The Oxford Concise Colour Medical Dictionary defines Wernicke’s Encephalopathy as “mental confusion or delirium occurring in combination with paralysis of the eye muscles, nystagmus, and an unsteady gait. It is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamin) and is most commonly seen in alcoholics and in patients with persistent vomiting. Treatment with thiamin relieves the symptoms. [K. Wernicke (1848-1905), German neurologist].”

There are three types of amnesia: post traumatic amnesia (PTA) that is the result of closed head injury, retrograde amnesia which can be described as difficulties in recalling events before the accident; and thirdly, anterograde amnesia. It is diagnosed when a patient is unable to recall events after an accident (Baddeley, 1997).

In fact, such an “accident” can be strong alcohol abuse. Korsakoff patients can suffer from severe anterograde and retrograde amnesia, which affects the patients’ speech.

The amnesia causes the aphasia, so it is different from Broca’s ahasia where the destroyed brain area for motor programming for speech causes the aphasia. But even in KWA patients parts of the brain are destroyed. The brain damage in KWA patients can be characterised on the one hand as a more or less severe brain stroke as a result of strong alcohol abuse. On the other hand drinking can result in more or less small infarcts in special parts of the brain, for example there were small infarcts found in the dorsomedial nucleus (Mayes, 1988).

After a first therapeutic treatment after the onset of KWA the patient tends to be euphoric, fatuous, jocular, amnesic and confabulating.


Excerpt out of 11 pages


Some aspects of Korsakof-Wernicke aphasia
Cardiff University  (centre for language and communication)
Communication disorders
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ISBN (eBook)
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524 KB
Some, Korsakof-Wernicke, Communication
Quote paper
Dr. phil. Roland Scheller (Author), 2000, Some aspects of Korsakof-Wernicke aphasia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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