Brain condition sidelining Bruce Willis has many causes

Category : Health

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. sideline / ˈsaɪdˌlaɪn / (v.) – to prevent a person from participating in an activity, usually due to an illness or injury

    Mike was sidelined from the championship game because of his ankle injury.

  2. cognitive / ˈkɒg nɪ tɪv / (adj.) – relating to mental processes

    Reading and playing with children are very helpful for their cognitive development.

  3. retrieve / rɪˈtriv / (v.) – to get back information from a computer or from one’s memory

    Her head injury made it difficult for her to retrieve people’s names from memory.

  4. noninvasive / ˌnɒn ɪnˈveɪ sɪv / (adj.) – relating to medical procedures or treatments that don’t require cutting the skin

    An x-ray is a noninvasive procedure that allows doctors to see what’s inside a patient’s body.

  5. stimulate / ˈstɪm yəˌleɪt / (v.) – to cause something to work, grow, or develop

    Exercise stimulates the brain and helps us think faster.


Read the text below.

A brain disorder that leads to problems with speaking, reading and writing has sidelined actor Bruce Willis and drawn attention to a little-known condition that has many possible causes.

A stroke, tumor, head injury or other damage to the language centers of the brain can cause aphasia. A brain infection or Alzheimer’s disease can trigger it.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, wounded in a 2011 shooting, has aphasia from that injury.

The National Aphasia Association estimates 2 million Americans are affected and nearly 180,000 get the disorder every year. Willis’ family announced Wednesday that the 67-year-old actor has been diagnosed with aphasia but did not provide any details on a possible cause.

For an actor, aphasia could pose a huge challenge depending on how severe it is, said Johns Hopkins University cognitive scientist Brenda Rapp, who works with people with the condition.

“You can imagine how frustrating it is if you can’t find words, if you can’t organize words into sentences, if you can’t get your mouth to produce the sounds you want it to produce,” Rapp said. “You are still yourself… but you may not sound like yourself.”

For most, the cause is a stroke that has cut off blood to part of the brain. Without oxygen and nutrients, brain cells die, which leads to the difficulty retrieving words.

Aphasia does not affect intelligence. Some people improve dramatically in a few months. Others may need to find other ways to communicate. Speech and language therapy can help.

Researchers are looking into new types of speech therapy and noninvasive methods such as a procedure that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate brain cells.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Willis’s family chose to tell the public about his medical condition. Do you think celebrities must always share their medical condition with everyone? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think public support for Bruce Willis will also increase support for those who have the same condition? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • According to the article, some people with aphasia may improve dramatically in a few months, while others may need to find other ways to communicate. Given these situations, do you think it’s possible for people with aphasia to continue living their life as they used to? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What can a community do to support people with language disorders (ex. put up therapy centers, make signs that don’t need words)? Discuss.
Category : Health