primary progressive aphasia

Primary Progressive Aphasia

Primary progressive aphasia is caused by degeneration in the areas of the brain that control speech and language. This type of aphasia begins gradually, with speech or language symptoms that will vary depending on the brain areas affected by the disease.

What is primary progressive aphasia (PPA)?

Practical Tips for Daily Life

Activities of daily living are divided into two major categories. The first, often called instrumental activities, includes more complex types of activities such as paying bills, shopping, managing medications, working and driving. The second category is activities related to personal care and include eating, bathing, dressing, getting in or out of bed or a chair and using the toilet. In the beginning of the disease, the patient will have trouble completing the instrumental, complex activities. As the disease progresses, the person will have difficulty managing the more basic functions and will need help from caregivers.

General tips

Remember to:

  • Facilitate their performance
  • Keep the patient as active as possible
  • Focus on their abilities
  • Avoid distress between you and the patient
  • If a lack of motivation is the barrier to performing a task, consider offering a reward for desired behaviors
  • Give yourself a break from time to time


If the patient becomes difficult to bathe, try this:

  1. A sponge bath in the tub or on a chair instead of a shower

Alleviating Symptoms

Living with the symptoms of neurodegenerative disease can be frustrating, difficult and even scary. The first step is to recognize that these behaviors are part of the changes in the brain. The person has little or no control over them and isn't behaving this way on purpose. Often times, behavioral and environmental changes can help prevent or stop these behaviors. For some symptoms, medication may be helpful.


Aggressive behavior may become more common in some forms of dementia due to the brain’s inability to control impulsive actions.

Tips for preventing aggression

  1. Ensure the person does not have pain and see the person's regular doctor for any illness. A change in behavioral symptoms may be triggered by even minor illnesses such as a cold or by pain such as arthritis.
  2. When talking to the person, do not use sarcasm or abstract thinking. Instead, be concrete.
  3. Reduce external distractions when talking, e.g., TV, radio, busy places.


Dementia can be caused by a number of different conditions; it is a symptom of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, frontotemporal dementia or corticobasal degeneration. The term "dementia" describes a progressive, degenerative decline in cognitive function that gradually destroys memory and the ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. While it often includes memory loss, memory loss by itself does not mean that a person has dementia. Dementia affects 17–25 million people worldwide.

Dementia is not a specific disease; it is a collection of symptoms that can be caused by a number of disorders, including neurodegenerative disease. The term "dementia" describes a progressive decline in memory or other cognitive functions that interferes in the ability to perform your usual daily activities (driving, shopping, balancing a checkbook, working, communicating, etc.). The deterioration is more than might be expected from normal aging and is due to damage or disease.

Trishna Subas

Research Coordinator

Trishna Subas graduated from UC Berkeley in 2009 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. Prior to coming to the Memory and Aging Center, she worked in the Berkeley Psychophysiology Lab investigating dementia and its connection to emotional functioning, and on a variety of projects regarding emotion and social interaction. She also worked at the Mills Lab, on a study which has followed a cohort of women from 1958 to the present.

Trishna joined the Memory and Aging Center in July 2010. Her primary role is managing the New Approaches to Dementia Heterogeneity grant, which follows patients with the goal of learning more about dementia to improve early detection and clinical care for patients. Additionally, she conducts cognitive testing with patients and assists in the validation of new diagnostic criteria for dementia.

Keith Vossel, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurology

Dr. Keith Vossel received his MSc degree in biomedical engineering and medical degree at the University of Tennessee, Memphis. He completed medical internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital and neurology residency at Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women's Hospitals, Harvard Medical School, where he served his final year as chief resident. Dr. Vossel completed behavioral neurology fellowship with Dr. Bruce Miller at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and postdoctoral training in neurodegenerative disease with Dr. Lennart Mucke at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease.

In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Vossel is working at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease, where he investigates mechanisms and novel treatment approaches for neural network dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, with focus on the tau protein and axonal transport. Dr. Vossel is leading a clinical trial at UCSF to investigate seizures and epileptic activity in neurodegenerative disease. He is a recipient of the Paul Beeson Career Development Award in Aging Research, through the National Institute on Aging and American Federation for Aging Research, and the John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation Distinguished Research Scholar Award.

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