What Is Wernicke's Aphasia?

What Is Wernicke Aphasia?

Wernicke's aphasia is one of the three fluent aphasias. The hallmarks of a Wernicke's aphasia are poor auditory processing, fluent speech, and poor repetition.

Poor auditory processing means that the person with this type of aphasia may have difficulty understanding what you are saying to him. While he may nod or act as though he understands, what he is hearing is often not what you are saying. Fluent speech means that he is speaking in sentences, although the content of those sentences may be full of neologisms and paraphasias. A neologism is made up word, such as when I say "skucker" when I mean to say "cook". A paraphasia can be when I mean to say "cook", but instead I say "sook", or "look". Poor repetition means that they can't repeat what they've said or what you've said.

For a free download of how Wernicke's aphasia gets better, click here. This can help you understand the hierarchy of progress.

Wernicke's aphasia happens because the posterior portion of the left side of the brain has been damaged. This area of the brain is "responsible" for reading, thinking of what to write, and understanding information. There is an area of the left temporal lobe called Wernicke's area.

I often find that therapists or physicians have confused this phonological, fluent aphasia with apraxia. You cannot have apraxia if you have a lesion in this area. Typically if someone says that you have apraxia, they are confusing the paraphasias with apraxia.  The treatment for apraxia and for a phonological aphasia are completely different.

When you have a posterior stroke that is isolated to that area, you will not have the total weakness in the arm and leg on the opposite side (right side). There may still be some slight weakness depending upon where the brain has been damaged, but you will generally be able to use your hand/arm/leg just like before your stroke.

Treatment of Wernicke's aphasia may initially be difficult for some therapists because the patient does not understand written or spoken language and he does not realize that his speech makes no sense to others. While Wernicke's aphasia can seem a difficult or impossible type of aphasia to treat  on the surface, it can be much easier than other types of aphasia. Progress can be made with any type of aphasia, and Wernicke's aphasia is no exception, although the indirect method of treatment can make it seem as though it takes more time. Using this approach, we have had clients who started with 2% coherent speech and ended up with over 90% coherent speech.

Visit our case studies/results page to see some examples of successful treatment for Wernicke's aphasia in our intensive aphasia treatment programs.

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About Dr. Bartels

Dr. Bartels is a published aphasia researcher, presenter, author, and founder of The Aphasia Center Intensive Aphasia Program. She is an aphasia diagnostic and treatment expert with over 11 years of daily experience. She helps families with aphasia all over the world plan their recovery and exceed their goals.

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