Pharmacotherapy of aphasia: A critical review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background Communication problems are a common se­quela of cerebrovascular disease and other central nervous system disorders. Behavioral treatment of these disorders aims to harness uninjured parts of the brain to improve the com­municative life of the individual. While pharmacotherapy has held promise for the treatment of aphasia for over 50 years, it has not fulfilled this promise. This article reviews both the promise and the disappointment of aphasia pharmacotherapy. Summary of Review Diverse theories of the underlying neurological deficits in aphasia have led to different pharma­cologic rationales for therapy. Animal studies have demon­strated decreased levels of brain catecholamines after cortical stroke and more rapid stroke recovery with therapy aimed at augmenting brain norepinephrine and dopamine. These studies have led to recent attempts to hasten or extend language and sensorimotor rehabilitation after human stroke by admin­istration of catecholaminergic drugs. When used as an adjunct to behavioral therapy, such pharmacotherapy appears to have benefit. Conclusions While drug therapy is unlikely to revolutionize the treatment of aphasia, it nonetheless holds promise as an adjunct to behavioral speech and language therapy to decrease performance variability and consequently to improve mean performance in patients with mild to moderate language dysfunction. Additional studies with carefully designed meth­ods are necessary to assess the full potential of aphasia pharmacotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1282-1289
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • Aphasia
  • Language
  • Pharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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