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Primary Progressive Aphasia

Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) is a condition that involves a progressive deterioration of language functioning.  Language refers to areas of communication that includes understanding what others say, speaking, reading, and writing.  “Aphasia” is a term used to indicate the loss of language functioning in one or more areas.  PPA results from degeneration in areas of the brain responsible for speech and language.  Specifically, degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for speech and language is a gradual nerve cell death that cannot be attributed to other causes such as stroke, head injury, infection, cancer or tumor, etc. 

According to Mesulam and colleagues, PPA is defined as a progressive disorder of language, with cognitive functions and activities of daily living remaining relatively preserved for at least two years. PPA is not Alzheimer’s disease. Most people with primary progressive aphasia maintain ability to take care of themselves, pursue hobbies, and, in some instances, remain employed.

The onset of PPA is usually slow and typically begins with difficulty finding words. Communication in persons with PPA progressively worsens over time to the point where any communication is difficult.  Symptoms of PPA may include:

  • Slow or effortful speech
  • Word-finding difficulties
  • Substitutions of words
  • Mispronunciation of words
  • Problems with reading, writing, and arithmetic
  • Difficulty understanding or following conversation despite normal hearing

Speech-language therapy can help improve communication and assist individuals to compensate for the loss of language, resulting in improved quality of life. 

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning provides comprehensive evaluation and therapy services on the Evanston campus. Diagnostic evaluations determine the course of treatment, including frequency and appropriateness of individual and/or group therapy.

The Northwestern University Center for Audiology, Speech, Language, and Learning is a unique community resource that merges university research and innovative teaching with clinical services. Experts in the field – faculty who are nationally certified and state licensed speech-language pathologists – direct provision of clinical services, bringing exceptional knowledge and experience to our clients.

For more information, contact us at 847-491-3165 or

Additional information:
Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center
National PPA Connection
Northwestern University Aphasia and Neurolinguistics Lab