Understanding Primary Progressive Aphasia – Harvard Gazette

When you think of progressive brain disorders that cause dementia, you usually think of memory problems. But sometimes language problems — also known as aphasia — are the first symptoms.

What is aphasia?

Aphasia is a language disorder due to brain injury. Strokes (when a blood clot blocks an artery and part of the brain dies) is the most common cause, although aphasia can also be caused by traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, encephalitis, and almost anything else that damages the brain, including disease. nervousness;

How do neurodegenerative diseases cause aphasia

Neurodegenerative diseases are disorders that slowly and inexorably destroy the brain. After ruling out a brain tumor with an MRI scan, you can usually tell when aphasia is from a neurodegenerative disease, rather than from a stroke or other cause, depending on its time course: Strokes occur within seconds to minutes. Encephalitis appears over hours to days. Neurodegenerative diseases cause symptoms over months to years.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease, but there are other types as well, such as frontotemporal lobe degeneration. Different neurodegenerative diseases damage different parts of the brain and cause different symptoms. When a neurodegenerative disease causes language problems first and foremost, it is called primary progressive aphasia.

How is primary progressive aphasia diagnosed?

Primary progressive aphasia is generally diagnosed by a cognitive behavioral neurologist and/or a neuropsychologist who specializes in late life disorders. The assessment should include an accurate history of any language and any other problems found; a neurological exam a pencil and paper test of thinking, memory and language; blood tests to rule out vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders, infections, and other medical problems; An MRI scan to look for strokes, tumors, and other abnormalities that can affect the structure of the brain.

General criteria for primary progressive aphasia include:

  • Difficulty with language is the most prominent clinical feature in the onset and early stages of neurodegenerative disease
  • These language problems are severe enough to disrupt daily functioning
  • Other disorders that can cause language problems have been researched and are not found.

There are three main types of primary progressive aphasia

Primary progressive aphasia is divided into different variants based on which aspect of the language is disrupted.

Alternative Logopenic Primary progressive aphasia causes difficulties in finding words. Individuals with this variant have difficulty finding everyday common words like table, chair, blue, knee, celery, And honesty. They know what these words mean.

semantic variable Primary progressive aphasia causes difficulty understanding the meaning of words. When given the word, individuals with this variable may not understand the meaning of a file Table or a chair is any color blueWhere do you find them? kneewhat or what celery Is it good for, and what honesty Means.

The non-absolute variant / agrammatic Primary progressive aphasia causes stressed, stunted speech in which individuals know what they want to say but cannot get the words out. When they can get the words out, their sentences often have incorrect grammar. Although they know what the individual words mean, they may have difficulty understanding a sentence with complex grammar, such as “the tiger ate the lion.”

This is an excerpt from an article appearing on the Harvard Health Publishing website.

To read the full story

Andrew E. Bodson is chair of the Department of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience at the Boston Health Care System for Veterans Affairs, lecturer in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, and chair of the Learning Science Innovation Group at the Harvard Medical School Academy.

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