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TomBroussard, March 23,  2021  1:25pm EST

Russian Dolls: The Nested Attributes of Aphasia & Recovery

Dear AHA/ASA Friends,

The metaphor of a Russian (or nested) doll is a large part of our public consciousness to help understand one difficult problem or another to be solved.

After my stroke and while still unable to express my thoughts (about my deficits and the process of recovery), the image of a Russian doll appeared in my mind. I knew (and had been told) that I had “lost my language” and could not read, write or speak well. As I thought about my problem, the Russian doll started to look a lot more like my deficits, with one nested inside of another.

As I became more aware of the details regarding each of those deficits, I began to see that more dolls had come into view, with more than just simple reading, writing and speaking deficits. But those new dolls (and their deficits) didn’t surface until more practice exposed their presence.

The more I practiced, the more deficits I saw. But the more deficits I saw, the more the deficits seemed to appear in the process of disappearing with more practice. Yet, I still had no idea that all of my activities provided the active ingredients of speech therapy without my knowing that they were therapeutic. The appearance and subsequent disappearance of various nested deficits were part and parcel of plasticity in motion.

The damage to reading, writing, speaking and awareness is just the start of understanding how the brain works and repairs itself. The real neurological injury (to those who have lost their language) is the destruction of millions of cells and the concomitant loss of speed, connectivity and the damage to the neuronal networks with both the skills and deficits buried deep in the nested dolls of our language.

Please see my full article and video at

Thanks…have a great Aphasia day!





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