Global aphasia is a condition that results from extensive damage to the language-processing areas of the brain. It is the most severe form of aphasia. Treatment aims to improve language and communication skills.

Injury to specific areas of the brain that control language and speech may lead to global aphasia.

Aphasia generally refers to a language disorder that affects the way a person communicates. Global aphasia is a type of nonfluent aphasia, meaning a person has difficulty getting words out, omits words, and speaks in short sentences.

Global aphasia affects a person’s ability to both speak and understand language. Someone with the condition may find it difficult to comprehend simple words and sentences.

In this article, we discuss what global aphasia is and its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

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The language area of the brain is in the left hemisphere and comprises the Wernicke area, Broca area, and a neural pathway connecting them (arcuate fasciculus). Damage to multiple language-processing areas of the brain can lead to global aphasia.

According to a 2023 study, with global aphasia, lesions occur in the left middle cerebral artery distribution and can vary in size. Also, people with global aphasia may experience difficulties understanding spoken or written language.


People with global aphasia are unable to repeat words or sentences and mostly use automatic phrases such as “thank you” and “excuse me.”

Most often, they speak either single words or no words at all. Another way they can communicate is by changing the tone of their voice.

Someone with the condition may be unable to write dictations and use various combinations of the letters H, C, K, E, and Y.

Global aphasia can affect all areas of language ability and may have the following symptoms:

Language comprehension

  • difficulty understanding others
  • taking more time to understand something said to them
  • difficulty understanding rapid speech
  • difficulty understanding complex grammar


  • difficulty speaking or inability to speak
  • using words that lack meaning
  • substituting sounds for words
  • making grammatical errors
  • putting words in the wrong order


  • difficulty reading or inability to read
  • difficulty recognizing words
  • misunderstanding the meaning of words


  • difficulty reading or inability to read
  • writing only single words
  • writing grammatically incorrect words
  • misspelling words

The most common cause of global aphasia is stroke.

Strokes affecting the left hemisphere of the brain can result in a reduction or inhibition of blood supply to that area. This results in a lack of oxygen, which can damage the language processing centers located there.

Learn more about aphasia after a stroke.

Some other causes of global aphasia include:

The first diagnostic step usually involves taking a medical history. A doctor collects information about the symptoms a person is experiencing and orders the necessary tests.

A doctor can confirm the diagnosis with a CT scan or MRI scan. These imaging tests can help determine the presence of brain injury and its exact location.

Speech and language tests can help determine whether there is a communication disorder. A doctor may check to see that a person is able to understand and produce language through activities such as following commands or holding a conversation.

A speech-language pathologist will be able to conduct more detailed exams on a person’s communication abilities.

Treatment approaches for global aphasia aim to improve language skills and communication skills. Typically, treatment for this type of aphasia may take longer, as it is known to be more severe.

Below are different treatment options in more detail:

Speech and language therapy

This is the most common treatment for people with global aphasia. With help from a speech and language therapist, it aims to:

  • improve communication
  • restore speech and language as much as possible
  • help people find alternative ways of communicating
  • inform a person and their family members about the condition

The therapy can take place in individual sessions, in groups, or through computer apps.

Melodic intonation therapy (MIT) is a type of speech-language therapy. This therapy uses rhythm and melody to help people recall and remember more words. It can also help with constructing sentences.

Other therapies

Research is ongoing into several therapies for global aphasia. These include:

  • Electrical brain stimulation techniques: This is a new area for the treatment of global aphasia. It uses transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), where a small electrical current passes through the brain to help improve language tasks.
  • Medications: Studies are ongoing into the use of medications to help replace or recover damaged neurotransmitters in the brain.

Learn more about how doctors treat aphasia.

Global aphasia is a type of aphasia. Several other types exist, including:

The type of aphasia someone has can depend on the location of injury to the brain.

Recovering from global aphasia depends on many factors, including the severity of the condition and the motivation of the individual.

In most cases, improvements occur 2–3 months after onset and peak at 6 months. That said, research has shown that improvements in communication skills can occur years later, especially if new brain activity is detected near the injury.

Recovery takes longer for people with more severe global aphasia. These individuals might also experience other complications, such as severe depression due to feelings of isolation and loss of control.

Getting support from family and friends can help a person’s recovery.

Learn more about how to communicate with a person with aphasia.

Global aphasia is a serious condition that results from extensive damage to the language-processing centers of the brain. People with global aphasia have difficulty speaking, reading, writing, and comprehending language.

Strokes are the most common cause of global aphasia, but it can also result from other causes, such as brain injury, brain tumor, and brain infection.

Several treatment options are available for global aphasia. Of these, doctors typically recommend speech and language therapy. Research is ongoing into several newer treatment approaches. People with global aphasia should consult their doctors to determine which treatment option is most suitable for them.