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Conduction Aphasia: Causes, Characteristics, and Treatment

doctor explaining conduction aphasia to patient and his wife

Conduction aphasia is a type of aphasia that causes an inability to repeat words or phrases. The good news is that, in most cases, other areas of language are only mildly impaired.

In this article, you will learn more about the causes and characteristics of this type of aphasia and the possible treatments available.

Causes of Conduction Aphasia

Conduction aphasia is traditionally understood to be caused by damage to a particular area of the brain, like after a stroke or brain injury.

The area of the brain related to conduction aphasia is the arcuate fasciculus, a white matter tract that runs between Broca’s and Wernicke’s area. These are the two main language centers of the brain.

Broca’s area is responsible for producing speech, while Wernicke’s is responsible for processing speech spoken by others.

Damage to the arcuate fasciculus produces a separation between those two areas. This may explain why it causes the person to have difficulty repeating phrases.

When conduction aphasia occurs, the parts of the brain responsible for processing language (Wernicke’s area) have become separated from the parts responsible for producing language (Broca’s area).

These two main language centers of the brain usually reside in the left hemisphere. As a result, aphasia is more common after a left hemisphere stroke or left hemisphere brain injury.

Characteristics of Conduction Aphasia

watercolor drawing of two people speaking, with the colors bleeding together to represent conduction aphasia

A person with conduction aphasia will struggle to repeat words or phrases, but can still read, write and speak fluently. Although they cannot repeat what others say, they can still understand them.

Therefore, if you ask a person with conduction aphasia to write down what you say, they can — however, they cannot repeat it verbally.

Some people with mild conduction aphasia can still repeat short words and phrases but struggle with longer and more complex sentences. Patient with severe conduction aphasia might be unable to repeat single words.

Another characteristic of conduction aphasia is repeated attempts at self-correction. The person with conduction aphasia is aware of their errors and will try to correct them. For example, if asked to say the word “refrigerator,” the patient might say “Frigilator…no, frerigilator,” until they can say the word correctly.

Finally, some individuals with this type of aphasia can also struggle with word-finding skills (a problem associated with anomic aphasia). However, this combination is rare.

Diagnosing Conduction Aphasia

Several standardized tests exist for diagnosing and classifying the types of aphasia. For example, the Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination (BDAE) and the Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) are two commonly used test batteries for diagnosing conduction aphasia.

These examinations involve a set of tests, which include asking the person to name pictures, read printed words, count aloud, and repeat words and non-words. Neuro-imaging such as MRIs or CTs can also identify any strokes, tumor, infection, or other conditions that may have caused your aphasia.

Once your doctor has determined that you may have conduction aphasia, you can begin seeking treatment.

Treatment for Conduction Aphasia

The primary treatment for conduction aphasia is speech therapy. Specifically, speech therapists use sentence repetition therapy, in which each week the patient must practice a set of sentences every day. At the end of the treatment, the patient often improves their ability to repeat words and phrases.

This therapy often proves effective because it utilizes a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways in response to changes in environment or stimulation. These pathways allow healthy portions of the brain to take over control of functions previously controlled by injured ones.

Patients can engage neuroplasticity through intensive repetition. Therefore, by encouraging the patient to practice repeating sentences, therapists can help the person rewire their brain and recover some function.

This makes it appealing to use speech therapy apps at home, to continue therapy between visits with your speech therapist. For example, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App was created by speech therapists themselves to encourage patients to keep up their exercises at home.

It works best to use speech therapy apps in conjunction with attending speech therapy.

A speech therapist can also teach aphasia patients certain compensatory tactics such as writing what others say and using text-to-speech devices to help make living with this type of aphasia a little easier. This is especially helpful for patients who do not respond to treatment.

Is Conduction Aphasia Permanent?

Symptoms of conduction aphasia are mostly transient, lasting anywhere from a few hours or days. This is especially the case when it occurs after a mild stroke or concussion. As the brain heals, impairment will typically decrease, and the aphasia should fade.

However, in more severe cases, conduction aphasia can last much longer, and some patients might display prolonged, profound deficits in repetition.

Fortunately, because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, improvement is always possible. The key is to continue to stimulate the brain through repetitive exercise. The more you practice repeating sentences, the more you will strengthen the new pathways in the brain that control that ability. As the pathways grow stronger, so will your communication skills.

Understanding Conduction Aphasia

Conduction aphasia is a mild form of aphasia that causes difficulties with repeating words or phrases. It occurs due to a disconnect in the language processing and language producing areas of the brain.

Speech therapy can help some patients overcome conduction aphasia by triggering neuroplasticity. However, some patients might still retain minor speech difficulties even with therapy. Learning compensatory tactics can help you manage your difficulties and return to normal daily activities.

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