People with apraxia cannot remember or do the sequence of movements needed to complete simple skilled or complex tasks, even though they are physically able to do the tasks.
Doctors ask the person to do or imitate common learned tasks, and tests of brain function and imaging tests may be done.
Physical and occupational therapists can help by making the environment safer and by providing devices to enable people with apraxia function better.
Apraxia is relatively uncommon.
Causes of Apraxia
Apraxia is usually caused by damage to the parietal lobes or to nerve pathways that connect these lobes to other parts of the brain, such as frontal and/or temporal lobes. These areas store memories of learned sequences of movements. Less often, apraxia results from damage to other areas of the brain.
Damage may result from a stroke Overview of Stroke A stroke occurs when an artery to the brain becomes blocked or ruptures, resulting in death of an area of brain tissue due to loss of its blood supply (cerebral infarction). Symptoms occur suddenly... read more , a brain tumor Overview of Brain Tumors A brain tumor can be a noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) growth in the brain. It may originate in the brain or have spread (metastasized) to the brain from another part of the body... read more , a head injury Overview of Head Injuries Head injuries that involve the brain are particularly concerning. Common causes of head injuries include falls, motor vehicle crashes, assaults, and mishaps during sports and recreational activities... read more , or dementia Dementia Dementia is a slow, progressive decline in mental function including memory, thinking, judgment, and the ability to learn. Typically, symptoms include memory loss, problems using language and... read more .
Symptoms of Apraxia
People with apraxia cannot remember or do the sequence of movements needed to complete simple skilled or complex tasks, even though they have the physical ability to do the task and they can do the individual movements of the task. For example, buttoning a button, which consists of a series of steps, may be impossible, even though the hands are physically capable of doing the task. Typically, people do not realize that they have a problem.
Some forms of apraxia affect only particular tasks. For example, people may lose the ability to do any one of the following: draw a picture, write a note, button a jacket, tie a shoelace, pick up a telephone receiver, or play a musical instrument. They may not be able to make or imitate hand gestures (such as waving goodbye) or show how a tool (such as a toothbrush) is used. They may be unable to copy a simple geometric shape despite being able to see and recognize it, hold and use a pen, and understand the task.
People with verbal (speech) apraxia cannot produce the basic sound units of speech because they cannot initiate, coordinate, or sequence the muscle movements needed to talk.
Diagnosis of Apraxia
A doctor's evaluation
Standardized tests of brain function
Imaging tests, such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging
To diagnose apraxia, doctors ask the person to do or imitate common learned tasks, such as using a toothbrush, scissors, or a screwdriver. Doctors also do a physical examination to determine whether symptoms are caused by muscle weakness or a muscle or joint problem.
Family members or caregivers are asked how well the person does daily activities, such as eating with utensils, preparing meals, and writing.
Certain standardized tests of brain function (neuropsychologic testing) may be done. Neuropsychologic testing provides information about how different areas of the brain are functioning. Doctors ask people questions designed to evaluate intelligence, the ability to solve problems and to plan and initiate actions (called executive function), attention, memory, language, motivation, mood and emotion, quality of life, and personality. Doctors also do simple tests and ask people to do specific movements to evaluate how well their brain processes the request (such as asking them to wave goodbye or show how a hammer is used).
Imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and other tests are done to determine the cause of the brain damage.
Treatment of Apraxia
Treatment of the cause
Physical and occupational therapy
The disorder causing apraxia is treated if possible. There is no specific treatment for apraxia.
Physical and occupational therapy may help some people with apraxia learn to compensate for their losses. But the main use of these therapies is to make the environment safer and to provide devices that help people function better.
Speech therapists Verbal apraxia Rehabilitation services are needed by people who have lost the ability to speak normally, often because of an injury, a stroke, an infection, a tumor, surgery, or a progressive disorder. Aphasia... read more can help people who have verbal apraxia by asking them to practice making sound patterns over and over. If verbal apraxia is severe, people may be taught to use a letter or picture board or a electronic communication device with a keyboard and message display.
Prognosis for Apraxia
Depending on the cause, some people with apraxia continue to lose function and become dependent, requiring help with daily activities and some supervision. However, if apraxia results from a stroke, people may not continue to lose function and may even improve somewhat, especially if they have intensive rehabilitation that includes occupational therapy.