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Paul Broca, Broca’s area

Paul Broca, Broca’s area

Paul Pierre Broca (Sainte-Foy-la Grande, Bordeaux, 28 as June as 1824 – Paris, 9 July as as 1880 ) was a physician , anatomist and anthropologist French . Its name is associated with the designation of the area of ​​the human brain ( Broca’s area ) that controls the functions of language

Paul Broca was a surgeon, neurologist and anthropologist, one of the most prominent figures in medicine and anthropology of the last century. He carried out important works in the study of cancerous pathology and in the treatment of aneurysms, as well as an essential contribution to the understanding of the origins of aphasia, name with which all impairment of the ability to articulate ideas is designated. Broca was a bright and passionate man, with a fervent dedication to the medical treatment of the most miserable social layers. Under cover of the night and at the risk of his own life, he once managed to secretly take Paris out of a cart pulled by seventy-three million horse francs into suitcases hidden under piles of potatoes; it was money from Public Assistance funds that, in his opinion, they were in danger of imminent pillage. He was the founder of modern brain surgery. He also dedicated himself to the study of the problem of infant mortality. Towards the end of his life he was appointed senator.

As one of his biographers has indicated, he loved above all peace and tolerance. In 1848 he founded a society of «freethinkers». He was one of the few French scientists of his time who showed adherence to the Darwinian thesis of the

evolution through natural selection among species. TH Huxley, “Darwin’s watchdog,” would point out that the mere mention of Broca’s name filled his spirit with a feeling of gratitude, and Broca is credited with the claim that “I prefer to be a transformed monkey than a degenerate son of Adam. ». For such ideas and other similar views, he was denounced by “materialism” and by the corrupter of youth, as it was centuries before Socrates. However, he received the nomination of senator.

Broca’s area (part of the brain): functions and their relationship with language

This region of the left brain lobe is responsible for specific aspects of language use.

Broca’s area is one of the parts of the brain  that has received the most attention in the investigation of neurobiological mechanisms that explain the use we make of language, whether spoken or written. The reason for this is that clinical studies related to this area of ​​the cerebral cortex show that there are different parts specialized in different aspects of language.

In this article we will see what Broca’s area is and how it relates to the use of language.

Drill Area: A Definition

Throughout history, attempts to understand the functioning of the brain have led to try to study the mental processes carried out by parts of it, as if they were systems relatively isolated from the rest. The Broca area was one of the first regions of the central nervous system to be associated with a specific mental process and differentiated from the rest .

Concrete, Broca’s area is the part of the brain that is responsible for articulating language in any of its forms . Thus, both in writing and speech, this portion of the central nervous system specializes in the production of a message with internal coherence and articulated through the corresponding language fractions, whether letters or phonemes.


Broca’s area located in the third frontal gyrus (in the frontal lobe) of the left cerebral hemisphere , although in some exceptional cases it is in the right hemisphere. Specifically, according to Brodmann’s map, it occupies areas 44 and 45 of Brodmann , near the eye and attached to the frontal part of the temporal lobe .

Functions of this brain region

Currently, Broca’s area is associated with these main mental functions and processes:

  • Language production
  • It helps to create spoken or written language, establishing chains of words and letters or phonemes.
  • Regulation of  gestures linked to speech .
  • When we talk, we usually move other parts of our body so that that information complements what we are saying out loud. All this, in addition, occurs spontaneously, and it is thanks to the work of the Broca area.
  • Recognition of grammatical structures.
  • Broca’s area reacts in a specific way hen you read or hear poorly constructed sentence grammatically
  • Regulation of the pronunciation of phonemes.
  • This part of the left frontal lobe is also responsible for monitoring the pronounced phonemes , so that it recognizes when a section of the word does not sound as it should.
  • Regulation of the rhythm of speech.

In addition, the Broca area is also responsible for working with another important element of the production of spoken language: the times. In this way it allows us to give our speech the right rhythm. On the other hand, in the phase immediately before the pronunciation, it inhibits the appearance of phonemes that are not the one that corresponds to each part of the word.

Keep in mind that neurosciences are constantly advancing, and that is why what is known today about what tasks the Broca area performs is, possibly, just the tip of the iceberg.

Injuries in the Broca area

People with damage in the Broca area of ​​the brain can understand language but cannot form words or speak fluently . This area, as we have said, is connected to another region of the brain known as the Wernicke area, which in turn is associated with language processing and comprehension.

However, the Broca area is not only responsible for issuing the language in a strictly motor sense. It seems to be also involved in the ability to understand grammar, even in its most complex aspects.

Injuries in the Broca area produce:

  • Reduction of verbal fluency , both in phonological and semantic tasks. For example, when a patient is asked to list words that begin with a particular letter or that belong to a category, those affected have trouble responding.
  • Problems with alternating verbal fluency : for example, name two semantic categories alternately, such as animal names and city names.
  • Language impoverishment: in extreme cases you can reach mutism, while in other cases it is characterized by hypolalia (decrease or delay in verbal expression), with reduction in verbal expression.
  • Inability to understand the meaning of sayings or more complex texts

Broca’s aphasia

The discovery of the Broca area came from clinical cases in which patients with this damaged area were unable to write and pronounce well although they could understand what they were told. This led to the establishment of a syndrome known as Broca’s aphasia , characterized by all the typical symptoms that appear when there is a lesion in the Broca area and other parts of the brain have been relatively preserved.

Specifically, the main symptoms are the following:

  • Problems when repeating words .
  • Lack of fluency when trying to speak or write .
  • The ability to understand texts and spoken language is preserved.

This syndrome is especially distinguished from another type of aphasia related to a part of the brain called the Wernicke area. This is Wernicke‘s aphasia, in which, compared to Broca’s aphasia, language and writing are much more fluid, but the ability to give meaning to what is said or to what is read or read is lost. Listen, so you don’t understand what others say .

On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that when a part of the brain is injured, either Broca or Wernicke‘s area, other parts of the brain are also indirectly affected, so the symptoms that appear are not an exact reflection of the tasks performed by these parties.

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