No products in the cart.

Damage to Wernicke’s Area: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, & Stages of Recovery

medical illustration of damage to Wernicke's area

Damage to Wernicke’s area, located in the left hemisphere of the brain, can lead to various speech and language disorders, particularly Wernicke’s aphasia. Individuals with Wernicke’s aphasia can typically form sentences that sound fluent but lack meaning.

This condition can make it difficult for the survivors to communicate with their loved ones, which can be frustrating. Fortunately, Wernicke’s aphasia can be improved with a combination of speech and language therapy exercises and helpful tactics.

This article will discuss what happens when Wernicke’s area sustains damage and how the recovery process works.

Use the jump links below to navigate through the article:

What is Wernicke’s Area?

Wernicke’s area is located in the posterior part of the left hemisphere of the brain. It was first discovered by a neurologist named Carl Wernicke who studied the effects of brain damage on individuals with aphasia.

Aphasia is a language and speech disorder that can make it difficult to understand or produce words. Wernicke discovered that some survivors are able to speak but cannot form coherent sentences and may use random words without realizing it, making it difficult to communicate.

Through further research, Wernicke discovered that individuals with aphasia had lesions in the left hemisphere of the brain, specifically near the back of the temporal lobe. This region of the brain, now known as Wernicke’s area, is primarily responsible for the comprehension and production of written and spoken language.

Causes of Damage to Wernicke’s Area

Damage to Wernicke’s area can often be caused by traumatic brain injury, brain tumors, infectious diseases, and other neurological disorders. Stroke can also cause damage to Wernicke’s area and lead to aphasia.

Studies show that about 20-40% of stroke survivors acquire aphasia due to impaired blood flow to the brain, which can impair various functions executed by that region of the brain. For instance, when a stroke occurs in Wernicke’s area, functions associated with speech and language may be impaired.

This can result in fluent aphasia, also known as Wernicke’s aphasia, which makes it difficult to understand both spoken and written words. Therapists can help survivors differentiate between symptoms of Wernicke’s aphasia and other speech and language disorders.

Symptoms of Wernicke’s Aphasia

Damage to Wernicke’s area can result in receptive or fluent aphasia, also known as Wernicke’s aphasia. Unlike more common types of aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia does not affect a person’s ability to produce words. Rather, they have lost their ability to grasp the meaning of words.

Symptoms of Wernicke’s aphasia may include:

  • Producing sentences that lack meaning
  • Difficulty repeating words or phrases
  • Forming sentences with several random words
  • Difficulty with reading and writing
  • Trouble understanding others

Additionally, many survivors with Wernicke’s aphasia may not realize they have any problems with speech. As a result, they might express feelings of confusion or frustration when they are unable to communicate with their loved ones. Therefore, it helps to learn how to recognize symptoms of Wernicke’s aphasia and find effective management techniques.

How to Recognize Wernicke’s Aphasia

Damage to Wernicke’s area is often not associated with other cognitive or physical impairments due to its location. The frontal lobe, located near the front of the brain, plays a strong role in cognitive function and it also houses the motor cortex, which plays a strong role in physical movement.

Cognitive and mobility skills are often left intact after damage to Wernicke’s area because it is located near the back of the brain, away from these other areas. For this reason, individuals with Wernicke’s aphasia may still be able to walk and perform the activities of daily living on their own. However, this can make it seem like survivors are not struggling with a speech or language disorder caused by a brain injury or stroke.

As a result, individuals may be overlooked and misdiagnosed, sometimes even referred to as intoxicated. This can make it extra difficult for survivors to communicate their feelings and symptoms to their loved ones.

Fortunately, speech-language pathologists (SLP) can provide survivors and their loved ones with strategies to manage daily life. They can also provide a rehabilitation plan tailored to the survivor’s specific needs.

Stages of Recovery from Wernicke’s Aphasia

Recovery may look different for every survivor depending on the cause of aphasia and the severity. However, there are several stages that many individuals go through when recovering from damage to Wernicke’s area.

Stages of recovery from Wernicke’s aphasia may include:

  • Stage 1: During the initial stage of Wernicke’s aphasia, survivors may feel confused and may have minimal understanding of written or spoken words.
  • Stage 2: In the second stage, confusion may decrease but speech may still not be clear. As a result, individuals may express feelings of frustration when others cannot understand them.
  • Stage 3: Survivors may now understand words in highly contextual settings, such as being asked what to eat or what tools they need.
  • Stage 4: Speech may have a normal rhythm and intonation, but words may still lack meaning. However, comprehension of words may have improved.
  • Stage 5: Individuals may realize that their words do not make sense and strive to form better sentences.
  • Stage 6: Survivors may be able to echo spoken words and read single words or simple phrases.
  • Stage 7: At this stage, individuals may be able to use appropriate words based on the context and form better sentences.

Every brain heals at a different pace and therefore these stages may not be accurate for every survivor. Nonetheless, understanding these stages can help reduce feelings of stress and frustration for survivors and their loved ones.

How to Treat Damage to Wernicke’s Area

An SLP can provide survivors with effective management techniques to help improve communication skills affected by Wernicke’s aphasia. This can include a combination of speech and language exercises both at a clinic and at home.

Some helpful tactics individuals can use to communicate better include:

  • Using gestures
  • Drawing pictures
  • Writing down important information
  • Slowing down your speech to give others time to process
  • Talking about things and asking contextually relevant questions

While using these tactics is helpful during recovery, it may still take time and patience for survivors to effectively communicate with loved ones. However, it’s important to remember that having Wernicke’s aphasia does not equal loss of intelligence. The brain is healing, and it may take time, but there is hope for recovery.

Understanding Damage to Wernicke’s Area

Damage to Wernicke’s area can lead to disorders associated with speech and language such as Wernicke’s aphasia. This condition causes difficulty with understanding language and forming sentences with meaning.

Wernicke’s aphasia can make it difficult to communicate effectively, which can be frustrating for both the survivor and their loved ones. Fortunately, SLPs can provide individuals with therapeutic exercises and tactics to help improve communication skills caused by damage to Wernicke’s area.

We hope this article helped you understand the effects of damage to Wernicke’s area and how to improve communication.

Keep it going: Do you know these 15 essential TBI recovery tips?

If you like our content, you’ll love our ebook and newsletters! Get instant access to our TBI recovery tips ebook with 20 pages of helpful advice by signing up below.

You’ll also receive our emails that share survivor stories and more useful TBI recovery tips, which you can opt out of at any time. (We know you’ll love them, too.)

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Recovery Tips!

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Articles on TBI Recovery

Do you want to sharpen your cognitive skills after a TBI?

Time with a speech therapist is extremely valuable during recovery, especially if you struggle with communication, critical thinking, or memory after brain injury. Insurance typically covers speech therapy for a fixed amount of time. But once it’s over, recovery is in your hands.

That’s why two speech therapists came together to create the CT Speech & Cognitive therapy app. It contains over 100,000 cognitive exercises that are all available right from your phone or tablet. 

This app is the perfect fit if you want to improve your speaking, memory, or general mental sharpness. Best of all, it’s affordable at just $29.99/month.

Click here to learn more about the CT app »

See what Miriam said about the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy app:

“For the past 6 months, my son has used the app about three times a week. The app is like a virtual therapist, it’s very easy to use, and it gives him immediate feedback.

He now understands things faster, can make decisions with less hesitation, has improved recognition of words, and his confidence is higher. I also find it easy to get in touch with customer service; they pleasantly help out. The whole experience has been great.”

— Miriam

It’s like having a virtual speech therapist available anytime you want

With the CT App, you can get the guidance you need right from your phone or tablet. You can use it on your own or in between sessions with your speech therapist.

Whether you struggle with aphasia, memory loss, or critical thinking, the CT Speech & Cognitive Therapy App can help.

“The CT app has helped me gather my confidence by building on and reinforcing old forgotten skills. It helps to see my percentages increase, and work harder when they decrease. It’s very self-motivating.” -Kathryn

We are confident that this app will help improve your speech and cognitive function after brain injury. Like our recovery tools, the CT App is also covered by our 30-day money-back guarantee.

15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know

Do you know these 15 TBI recovery tips?

Get a free copy of our ebook 15 Things Every TBI Survivor Must Know. Click here to get instant access.