Aphasia: disordered language, disordered thinking?

Dr Rosemary Varley

If you have aphasia, can you calculate the following?
5 - 7 =
3/6 - 2/9 =
50 - ((4 + 7) x 4) =
(c - b) x a =

For some people with aphasia, difficulties talking go with difficulties in calculating. But for some, it is possible to perform complex calculations.

In research at the University of Sheffield, we look for evidence of complex thinking in people with very severe aphasia.

Recent work on mathematics has shown that calculation is possible. This came as a big surprise for some people and so our research got a lot of attention in the media (including articles in The Times, The Guardian and the lead story on BBC News Online).

Why were people surprised at our research? Many people think that intelligence and complex intellectual activity is tied up with language. So, disordered language must result in disordered thinking. But our results show that this is wrong.

A person can have a severe language problem but still be able to think complex thoughts.

People reading this website probably know this already. But to the wider world and people who have no knowledge of aphasia, this was news.

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 2449


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