What is Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is a motor speech problem that can severely impact a person’s ability to speak and thus to be understood by others. When you speak you use many coordinated muscle movements among the lips, face, vocal folds, diaphragm, and tongue. If a person suffers from Dysarthria, the part of the brain that controls these muscle movements is not working properly and the muscles have weak movements. Dysarthria involves weak muscle movements and makes it so that sounds, words, and sentences are not made properly and instead make it hard to understand what is said.
Are There Different Types of Dysarthria?
Yes, there are six types of Dysarthria. The type of Dysarthria a person experiences has to do with which part of the brain and nervous system is damaged and not working properly. All types of Dysarthria involve underactivity of the sensorimotor cortex. In addition, specific systems are impacted as described below.
- Spastic Dysarthria results from bilateral damage to the upper motor neuron system.
- Flaccid Dysarthria results from bilateral or unilateral damage to the lower motor neuron system.
- Ataxic results from damage to the cerebellum and unilateral upper motor neuron system.
- Hyperkinetic and
- Hypokinetic Dysarthrias result from damage to parts of the basal ganglia and can be caused by Huntington’s disease or Parkinson’s Disease.
- Mixed Dysarthrias involve symptoms of one or more of the types of Dysarthrias described above (where symptoms of more than one type of dysarthria are present).
Note: The majority of dysarthric patients are diagnosed as having ‘Mixed’ Dysarthria, as neural damage resulting in dysarthria is rarely contained to one part of the nervous system — for example, multiple strokes, traumatic brain injury, and some kinds of degenerative illnesses (such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) usually damage many different areas of the nervous system.
What Causes Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls speech motor movements. On the accompanying picture, you can see that the sensorimotor cortex across the middle of the brain and the areas in the back that control motor movements, as indicated by red, are not working as they should. These brain areas need to use proper processing speed to make the muscles go where they need to go for speech. After a brain injury or degeneration, these areas no longer work as fast as they should. Underactivity of these brain areas makes it so that the person experiences symptoms of Dysarthria.
How Does Someone Get Dysarthria?
Dysarthria is associated with a variety of brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases and disorders. The most common ones are listed below:
- Brain Injury
- Brain Tumors
- Parkinson’s disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [ALS], or Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Huntington’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
- Muscular Dystrophy
What are the Symptoms of Dysarthria?
Dysarthria can impact how speech sounds in a variety of ways. Sometimes people may drool or run out of breath easily too because of dysarthria. The most common speech changes due to dysarthria are listed below.
- Slurred speech
- Mumbled speech
- Soft speech, like a whisper
- Flat affect of speech, no intonational changes
- Higher or lower pitched than usual
- Jerky speech
- Slower or faster than usual
Does Dysarthria Affect a Person’s Mind?
No, Dysarthria can be incredibly frustrating for the person who has it because their mind is still fully functional and their mental condition is not impacted at all. The person knows what they want to say, they just can’t say it and are aware of their difficulty and their errors. Dysarthria can cause stress and anxiety for the person who is dealing with it. People often feel depressed and socially isolated because of their difficulty or inability to communicate with others.
How is Dysarthria Diagnosed?
Dysarthria is diagnosed by a trained Speech Language Pathologist who can perform a comprehensive assessment of speech abilities, including an oral motor exam, and determine how speech motor movement has been impacted. A crucial aspect of a full assessment is to visualize brain functioning to see which parts of the brain are not working so that therapy can be individualized and more specific. qEEG Brain Mapping provides this advanced information so that therapy can be most effective in the quickest amount of time.
How Do Brain-based Therapies Help Dysarthria?
Once brain patterns of the area(s) that have been damaged are identified through qEEG Brain Mapping, then brain-based therapies, specifically Neurofeedback, can be used to improve how those brain areas are working. Underactivity of the motor speech brain areas causes the symptoms, as seen in the accompanying picture in red, orange, and yellow. When the underactivity is improved and the brain is working better in those areas, speech becomes better. When brain functioning improves, symptoms decrease.
Leigh Brain and Spine is proud to have earned the distinction as a Certified Brain Health Coach Center and is a proud member of the Amen Clinics referral network.