A neurological condition that impairs one's ability to name persons and objects.
Anomia is a type of aphasia, a category of disorders caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control language and communications. Parts of the brain that may be involved in anomia and other types of aphasia include the auditory cortex, which enables people to make sense of what they hear; Wernicke's area, where words are stored; and Broca's area, which enables the organs of speech to receive the signals sent by Wernicke's area. Aphasia is usually caused by head injuries, tumors, strokes, or infections that affect the brain, particularly the left side of the brain, which controls communication in most people (the concentration of language function in the left brain is less strong for people who are left-handed or have a family history of left-handedness).
Anomia is part of the broader category of non-fluent aphasias, in which the person speaks hesitantly because of difficulty naming words and/or producing correct syntax. The non-fluent aphasic may know that he has not found the right word to express what he wants to say or may be unaware that what he is saying is wrong. By comparison, the fluent aphasic produces words readily and abundantly, but they don't make any sense. Non-fluent aphasias generally involve damage to the anterior (front) portions of the brain, while fluent aphasias are associated with the posterior (rear) areas. Aphasias are not necessarily accompanied by any loss of intelligence or memory (other than the memory for words). Anomia varies from one person to another. Some have more trouble with "content" words, while others have difficulty with smaller words like "in" and "the." Some have more trouble with proper nouns than common nouns, while others forget them equally.
A person with anomia may be able to drive, work, and perform other activities requiring normal (or even above normal) intelligence as long as they do not require extensive and accurate verbal communication. Many persons (especially young persons) recover from anomia and other aphasias, as long as the condition is not due to a degenerative illness that continues to get worse. Speech therapy may be necessary, as words often cannot be relearned by the simple repetition through which they were acquired originally. Words can often be more readily recalled if used in common contexts. Another helpful technique for restoring the vocabulary of persons with anomia is to present words in a narrow semantic context, asking them to complete sentences from which only one word is missing.
Researchers have found that persons with normal brains may have problems similar to those of persons suffering from anomia if they are hampered by external forces such as distractions or intoxication.
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Sagan, Carl. Broca's Brain. New York: Random House, 1979.