The daughter of Bruce Willis has just announced the withdrawal of his father from the cinema due to an illness which affects him ability to speakr. It is aphasiaa disorder associated with injury to the areas of the brain that control language. These injuries can have different origins and, in addition, occur in different places, which makes the symptoms very varied, always with the cSpoken, written, read or even gestural communication as a common factor.
In Spain they are registered every year 25,000 new cases and in the United States, where Bruce Willis lives, 180,000. It is therefore a fairly common disease, especially in patients who have suffered cerebrovascular accidents such as cerebrovascular accidents.
Although this could also be the consequence of a tumor or be associated with infections cerebral or illnesses like multiple sclerosis or Alzheimer’s. Details on Bruce Willis’ situation have not been released. It makes sense that the family would want this to be part of their privacy. They just gave the right information for the world to understand why a star of his caliber decided to leave the profession so soon. And that makes sense, because people with aphasia have great difficulty communicating, forming coherent sentences, or understanding what they’re reading. Unfortunately, memorizing a script or stepping into a conversation can be a very difficult task for him.
What types of aphasia are there?
Although aphasia can be classified in different ways, it is more common to start by separating it into two groups, depending on whether it is fluent or non-fluent aphasia.
In the first the comprehensive language is less well preserved than expressive and in the second, the opposite occurs. Therefore, when fluent, patients find it more difficult to understand what they hear than to speak their own sentences, while non-fluent aphasics can understand what another person is saying to them quite well, but they have a lot of trouble communicating.
Within the first group, the best known is the Wernicke’s aphasiawhich is caused by damage to the temporal lobe of the brain, more precisely at a point called Wernicke’s area. Patients with this type of aphasia may form very long sentencesbut these have no consistency and, in addition, sometimes include invented words. On the other hand, they have a lot of trouble understanding what they are told and They ignore of their own mistakes, which makes it all the more difficult to have a conversation with them.
As for the non-fluid, the best known is the Broca’s aphasiain which the Broca area is affected, located in the frontal lobe. This region also has a motor functionso people with this type of aphasia, in addition to language, may have affected the arm or leg mobility rights. As for how to communicate, they tend to understand what is said to them and are aware of their difficulties. So they try to do short sentences to avoid mistakes. Unfortunately they can’t do it, they often have trouble conjugating verbs or eliminating short words like articles or certain verbs. All of this can be very frustrating for them.
Are there treatments for people like Bruce Willis?
Bruce Willis was recently diagnosed with aphasia. At least that is what his daughter implies in the press release that the family has just published. Therefore, you may still see some improvement. And it is quite normal that the damaged brain tissue in aphasic patients recover some activity after diagnosis. If the injuries were due to conditions such as a transient ischemic attack, total normality could be achieved; although unfortunately this is not always the case. Either way, they may show some improvement within months of diagnosis.
Therefore, the sooner you start the therapies, the better. There is no definitive cure for aphasia, but there are treatments for these patients that can help them regain some of their lost language ability.
These treatments are carried out by multidisciplinary teams, made up of neuropsychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and clinical psychologists. In addition, other professionals such as musicologists or dubbing actors.
In fact, in Spain in 2020, an interesting clinical test in which aphasic patients following a cerebrovascular accident learned the profession of dubbing with the help of one of these actors. Later, they had to try to dub scenes of the characters in the series Tell me. the character of stoatplayed by María Galiana, was once the most chosen, because she vocalizes a lot when she speaks and it is easier for patients to learn to position their mouths like her.
Who knows? Seen the job Bruce Willis, maybe he could use one of these treatments. What is clear is that, whatever the type of your aphasia, you will surely receive the best treatments. Hopefully, he and everyone who suffers from this disease will one day have even more effective therapies than those that already exist. The science is in it.