Scientists Discover Reason of Losing Speech in Language-Based Dementia

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 11:24

Scientists from Northwestern Medicine University have found out the location of dysfunctional brain networks that lead to impaired sentence production and word finding in primary progressive aphasia (PPA).

A team of scientists led by Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer Disease Center and a Northwestern Medicine neurologist pinpointed the location of dysfunctional brain networks that lead to impaired sentence production and word finding in primary progressive aphasia (PPA), EurekAlert reports.

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is a form of dementia in which patients often lose their language rather than their memory or thought process. With this discovery, the scientists have drawn a map that illustrates three regions in the brain that fail to talk to each another, inhibiting a person's speech production, word finding and word comprehension.

The map can be used to target those brain regions with therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to potentially improve an affected person's speech, "Now we know where to target people's brains to attempt to improve their speech," said lead author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour.

The findings have been published Sept. 1 in the journal Cortex. The large study (73 patients) recruited from the extensive pool of patients with PPA at Northwestern's Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer Disease Center, one of the largest centers in the world.

"Previous studies of structural changes in the brain were like archeology, in which scientists were locating areas of the brain that had already died," Bonakdarpour said. "But we are looking at the parts of the brain that are still alive, which makes them much easier to target with treatment."

Bonakdarpour and his colleagues have begun testing TMS on the three targeted brain regions in healthy individuals with the goal of applying it to patients with PPA in a future clinical trial.

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