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Come Again? A Look Into Left Hemisphere Aphasia

1689 words - 7 pages

Imagine for a moment that you are alone with your loved one on a Saturday night. While watching a movie, you begin to feel strange. Suddenly you are unable to move your leg, or perhaps even your face. The images on the television screen double, and out of nowhere you get an agonizing headache. Your significant other seems frantic and is speaking to you, but you do not understand what they are saying, and cannot find it possible to reply. It is almost as if you are locked inside your own body (Rodriguez).
Later you awake in the hospital and have had a stroke. Someone is speaking in a strange accent, Russian, but no one else is in the room except your loved one. The strange accent seems to be coming from your own mouth. The doctor tells you that there was damage to Broca’s area in your brain and you have suffered aphasia. This specific aphasia is called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS).
In a recent study Foreign Accent Syndrome was defined as, “a rare disorder characterized by the emergence of new prosodic features that listeners perceive as a foreign accent, is usually due to left hemisphere lesion or dysfunction (Christopha, de Freitasa, dos Santos, Lima, Arau´jo, & Carota, 2004). So it is not actually the speaker having a new accent. In reality it is the listener who hears the accent. Hearing a foreign accent is only perception. Aphasia is often sensationalized, and many believe that these people have acquired a new accent out of thin air (Stollznow, 2011). This is in keeping with the belief that losing a sense can somehow heighten the remaining senses to compensate for this loss (Stollznow, 2011). Aphasia is not a superhuman power; it is a manifestation of brain damage (Stollznow, 2011). The term was first used in 1919 by a German scientist who described his patient who was Czech, who had a Polish accent after a left hemisphere stroke (Christopha, de Freitasa, dos Santos, Lima, Arau´jo, & Carota, 2004)
But what exactly causes the change in speech? The condition is best explained as a form of aphasia, a speech motor disorder (Stollznow, 2011). Aphasia is a language disorder that happens as the result of damage to the language-dominant brain hemisphere (the left hemisphere) at a specific time in life of an individual who has already fully developed language (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). People who suffer from aphasia usually do not have any impairment of their cognitive faculties or of their ability to move the muscles used in articulating words (Canadian Institutes of Health Research).
The types of illnesses and injuries that can cause aphasia include strokes, head injuries (as the result of motor vehicle collisions, falls, or other accidents), brain tumors, degenerative neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and infectious neurological diseases such as encephalitis (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). To think of aphasia as merely a language disorder is far too simplistic though. It is actually a communication...

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