Communication problems after brain injury

Communication problems after brain injury are very common. Although most of us take it for granted, the ability to communicate requires extremely complex skills and many different parts of the brain are involved.

There are four main categories of the effects of brain injury. Any of these can cause communication problems:

  • Physical - affecting how the body works
  • Cognitive - affecting how the person thinks, learns and remembers
  • Emotional - affecting how the person feels
  • Behavioural - affecting how a person acts


Many people will experience more than one form of communication problem after brain injury, depending on the areas of the brain affected and the severity of the injury. It is also important to recognise that such problems may occur alongside other changes in physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioural functions.

The diagram below shows the cerebral cortex. The cortex is the outer part of the brain, which is responsible for our more sophisticated thinking skills. Many of the functions listed are important for communication and injury to any of these areas can impair communication skills.

This section explains some of the ways brain injury can affect communication. 

  • Language impairment - aphasia (often called dysphasia)
    Covers problems with understanding language and expressing thoughts through language. Also covers problems with reading and writing.
  • Speech difficulties
    Discusses disorders of speech that can occur after brain injury.
  • Cognitive communication difficulties
    Covers some of the problems with communication caused by cognitive difficulties, such as memory impairment, attention difficulties, poor social skills and fatigue.

Our booklet Coping with communication problems after brain injury provides more in-depth information about the issues covered here, and you can contact the Headway helpline if you have any further questions.