Brain condition sidelining Bruce Willis has many causes
A brain disorder that leads to problems with speaking, reading and writing has sidelined actor Bruce Willis and drawn attention to a little-known condition that has many possible causes.
A stroke, tumor, head injury or other damage to the language centers of the brain can cause aphasia. A brain infection or Alzheimer’s disease can trigger it.
The National Aphasia Association estimates 2 million Americans are affected and nearly 180,000 get the disorder every year. Willis’ family announced Wednesday that he has been diagnosed with aphasia but did not provide any details on a possible cause.
For most, the cause is a stroke that has cut off blood to part of the brain. Without oxygen and nutrients, brain cells die, which leads to the difficulty retrieving words.
Aphasia does not affect intelligence. Some people improve dramatically in a few months. Others may need to find other ways to communicate. Speech and language therapy can help.
Researchers are looking into new types of speech therapy and noninvasive methods such as a procedure that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate brain cells.
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