Acquired motor speech disorders: overview

Acquired motor speech disorders are changes to voice and speech associated with damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. This includes disorders associated with the nerve-muscle junction, e.g. myasthenia gravis and with muscle function, e.g. muscular dystrophies. 

Key points:

  • Disorders covers apraxia of speech, dysarthria and dysprosody. 

  • Severity may range from changes imperceptible to listeners but felt by speakers through to absence of any speech or voice.

  • Lesions bringing about motor speech disorders may involve:
        • cerebral cortex
        • and/or subcortical structures and pathways
        • and/or peripheral nerves.
  • Lesions may be localised, e.g. stroke or systemic, e.g. motor neurone disease, sudden onset or slowly or rapidly progressive, all with implications for management. 

  • Prognosis of the underlying neurological disorder may be towards improvement/plateau or inevitably deteriorating, but in all cases speech and language therapy (SLT) has a role to play.

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