This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 02 table of contents.

Aphasias

Brain injuries in particular areas produce recognizable syndromes. The word "syndrome" refers to an identifiable pattern of symptoms. Not every symptom is present in every case, but the symptoms form a recognizable cluster. The first brain damage syndromes to be documented by scientists were aphasias. Aphasias are disorders of speech due to brain injury. The most famous types are Broca's aphasia and Wernicke's aphasia. Most people process language in the left hemisphere, so aphasias usually occur after injuries on the left side of the brain.

What did Broca declare in 1865?

Paul Broca , a French physician, first publicized the language specialization of the left hemisphere. Broca had a patient who was unable to speak after a brain injury but seemed normal in other ways. After the patient died, Broca discovered a damaged area above the left temporal lobe. In 1865, after collecting data on many such patients, Broca declared, "We speak with the left hemisphere."

Broca's aphasia comes in all degrees of severity. People with mild cases speak well except for frequent lapses when a word is mysteriously unavailable. People with severe Broca's aphasia are more disabled. Sometimes they are unable to speak at all. Sometimes they say a few syllables over and over. A student reported such a case:

The family across the street from us is good friends with my family. I can remember back when Dr. Monroe and his mother, who had a stroke, came over to our house. His mother has died since, but after she had the stroke, the only words she could say were "Find a way." She would say this over and over again-"Find a way find a way find a way find a way..." She would say it with a different kind of emotion and putting emphasis on different words that made sense for the occasion. She probably had the meanings in her mind but couldn't express them. Her retrieval abilities had been damaged and she may have been suffering from Broca's aphasia. [Author's files]


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