The Cause and Effect of Wernicke’s Aphasia and an Approach to Treatment of Aphasics

Term Paper, 2010

11 Pages, Grade: 10


Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 What Specifically Is Wernicke’s Aphasia?

3 How can Aphasics be Treated Successfully?

4 Conclusion

List of References

1 Introduction

In our daily lives, language plays an important role. The ability to use spoken or written language in order to express meaning is essential and enables people to cope with situations in which communication via language is indispensable. As a matter of fact, there are certain diseases that decrease an individual’s ability to express him- or herself properly without decline of intelligence. In general, this phenomenon is called aphasia, which literally means without language; though the ability to speak remains in most cases. Aphasia is a disturbance in the established language system of a person due to brain injury. Some signals that might indicate that a patient is suffering from aphasia are for example: problems to build correct sentences in written and spoken language, usage of inappropriate words in certain situations, invention of neologisms, inability to recognize own mistakes (in some cases), or errors on phonological basis. According to the symptoms the individual patient shows, there are four major categories in which aphasia can be subdivided: global aphasia, amnesic aphasia, Broca’s aphasia and Wernicke’s aphasia. It is worth mentioning that other types of aphasia and mixtures of these four categories also exist. Especially, when practicing with aphasia patients, new problems may arise and shift the respective form of aphasia towards another. On the one hand, aphasia is a very interesting phenomenon. On the other hand, it is a severe impairment for patients, which makes it hard to cope with the challenges of daily life.

Since aphasia is a very complex topic, this term paper will focus only on Wernicke’s aphasia because it is distinct to the other types concerning the patients’ awareness. A patient who suffers from Wernicke’s aphasia is mostly unaware of the mistakes he or she makes. The only thing realized by the patient, is, that he or she is not performing very well. Through this, it becomes interesting to explore Wernicke’s aphasia and at the same time difficult to find a treatment.

This term paper will commence by giving a detailed explanation of what Wernicke’s aphasia is. Here, its effect on patients’ language production and reception is described. In addition, a closer look at brain anatomy will be taken in order to understand the disease in detail. Finally, methods of treatment for aphasics will be introduced and explained. There are also a number of advices given, which help friends and family members to cope with the patient’s impairment.

2 What Specifically Is Wernicke’s Aphasia?

Wernicke’s aphasia is one of the four major types of aphasia. In most cases elderly people are affected by it, but also younger people can become aphasics. The reason why mostly elderly people suffer from aphasia, probably results from the fact that stroke is the most common cause for it. (cf. Krämer 1999: 4) From 100 stroke survivors, 25 to 40 percent acquire aphasia. This equals 1 in 250 people. (cf. NAA) Therefore, aphasia is not a rarity but an ailment that could affect everybody. Causes that can also lead to aphasia are other forms of brain injury like infectious diseases, internal bleeding, tumors and other.

But what in detail causes Wernicke’s aphasia? In order to answer this question, a closer look at brain anatomy and language processing has to be taken.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The left hemisphere of the human brain

The language production process consists of four steps. At first, a meaningful idea is conceptualized in Wernicke’s area (Figure 1: blue spot). For that reason Wernicke’s area is also called the mental lexicon. In here, a person’s whole vocabulary repertoire is stored. (cf. Miske 2005: 6) As soon as the correct concept for the requested idea has been found, Wernicke’s area sends it to Broca’s area (Figure 1: green spot). Here, the concept is formulated. This represents the second step. In the third step, Broca’s area passes the formulation to the right hemisphere, where the motor projection areas are located (also known as motor cortex). This part of the brain is in charge of moving the speech organs and therefore articulation of the respective words.

As one can imagine, Wernicke’s area is one of the most important areas in the language production process, because it is responsible for processing the meaning of words. (cf. ibid.) When a patient is affected by Wernicke’s aphasia, in most cases the side portion of the left temporal lobe - the location of Wernicke’s area - is damaged. (cf. NIDCD) As a result, the patient has trouble finding the correct concepts he or she is searching for in the mental lexicon. Patients who suffer from Wernicke’s aphasia usually have no trouble speaking fluently or building complex sentences. Out of this reason Wernicke’s aphasia belongs to the category fluent aphasia. (cf. ibid.) However, it is likely that listeners do not receive the patient’s message because words often are pronounced in a wrong and incomprehensible way. It occurs that words do not even make sense to the listener, neither phonologically, nor with regards to content. This may lead to the assumption that the patient uses a different language. Through this, people who have not yet experienced a person suffering from Wernicke’s aphasia, probably think that the patient is mentally deranged, which is deceptive. A conversation with somebody who acquired Wernicke’s aphasia could look like this short section recorded by an examiner: illustration not visible in this excerpt

Examiner: I’m going to ask you some questions, and I just want you to answer ‘yes’ or

‘no’. Okay? ‘Yes’ or ‘no’. Is your name Smith?

Patient: Where would I be, what they’re eating avarment I don’t know. Examiner: Is your name Brown?

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Patient: Oh mistress triangland while listen you walking well things things this for year for thee.

Examiner: Okay, just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Okay, is your name Brown?

Patient: What it is here, then let me see, I just don’t know. No, I’m not going to an eat any sigh no.

Examiner: No? ... Are the lights on in this room?

Patient: No [laughs] not. I just don’t sorry what you’re doing and you just saving walking and walking around here. […]


Excerpt out of 11 pages


The Cause and Effect of Wernicke’s Aphasia and an Approach to Treatment of Aphasics
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen  (Anglistik)
Proseminar: Language, Mind and Brain
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ISBN (Book)
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cause, effect, wernicke’s, aphasia, approach, treatment, aphasics
Quote paper
Nils Hübinger (Author), 2010, The Cause and Effect of Wernicke’s Aphasia and an Approach to Treatment of Aphasics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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