What’s the outlook (prognosis) for people with aphasia?
The cause of the brain injury, extent and area of the brain damage, and age and health of the affected person all play a role in prognosis and brain recovery. Because of these factors, the degree of recovery and speed of recovery of language and communication skills varies from person to person.
If stroke is the underlying cause of the aphasia, sometimes language abilities return to normal within hours or days. In others with stroke, language difficulties may be lifelong and range from mild, subtle difficulties to significant aphasia. If the aphasia is caused by a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia, language and communication skills will continue to decline over time. There is no cure for dementia. Currently approved medications only slow the progression of symptoms.
Are there any newer approaches to diagnose or treat aphasia?
New drugs are under development that affect the chemical neurotransmitters (the way the brain’s cells communicate with each other). It is hoped that the drugs in combination with speech-language therapy will improve the recovery of language functions.
Researchers are looking into the role of brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation. These techniques temporarily alter normal brain activity in the area where they are applied, which, under the guidance of speech-language therapists, may help people relearn communication and language skills.
Other research is exploring new ways to learn how language is processed in both damaged and normal brains and to learn how the speech and language areas of the brain recover after injury. This information could help with diagnosis and with assessing treatment progress. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is one imaging techniques being explored for this use.